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Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Sep;28(9):1168-73.

Central adiposity and cortisol responses to waking in middle-aged men and women.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK.



Central obesity is associated with disturbances of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis function. We investigated whether central adiposity indexed by waist/hip ratio is related to cortisol responses to waking and other measures of salivary cortisol over the working day.


In total, 89 men and 83 women aged 47-59 y recruited from the British civil service. All were members of the Whitehall II epidemiological cohort.


Saliva samples were collected on waking, 30 min later, and then at 2-h intervals from 0800-0830 to 2200-2230. A strict procedure for excluding individuals who did not adhere to the sampling schedule was applied.


Waist/hip ratio in men was positively correlated with the cortisol response to waking (30 min-waking value) after adjusting for age, socioeconomic position, smoking status, alcohol consumption, time of waking, and cortisol level on waking (r=0.29, P=0.009). The cortisol response to waking was negatively related to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (r=-0.25) and positively with total/HDL cholesterol ratio (r=0.25). Associations between the decline in cortisol over the day and waist/hip ratio, HDL cholesterol and total/HDL cholesterol ratios were also significant. No associations were significant in women, and body mass index was unrelated to cortisol.


The cortisol response to waking is a dynamic indicator of HPA function that has previously been related to chronic psychological stress. These results confirm a recent Swedish study, and indicate that cortisol responses to waking may be indicative of neuroendocrine disturbance in central obesity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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