Minireview: glucocorticoids--food intake, abdominal obesity, and wealthy nations in 2004

Endocrinology. 2004 Jun;145(6):2633-8. doi: 10.1210/en.2004-0037. Epub 2004 Mar 24.


Glucocorticoids have a major effect on food intake that is underappreciated, although the effects of glucocorticoids on metabolism and abdominal obesity are quite well understood. Physiologically appropriate concentrations of naturally secreted corticosteroids (cortisol in humans, corticosterone in rats) have major stimulatory effects on caloric intake and, in the presence of insulin, preference. We first address the close relationship between glucocorticoids and energy balance under both normal and abnormal conditions. Because excess caloric intake is stored in different fat depots, we also address the systemic effects of glucocorticoids on redistribution of stored energy preponderantly into intraabdominal fat depots. We provide strong evidence that glucocorticoids modify feeding and then discuss the role of insulin on the choice of ingested calories, as well as suggesting some central neural pathways that may be involved in these actions of glucocorticoids and insulin. Finally, we discuss the evolutionary utility of these actions of the stress hormones, and how dysregulatory effects of chronically elevated glucocorticoids may occur in our modern, rich societies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen*
  • Animals
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Glucocorticoids / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Insulin