Shaping the stress response: interplay of palatable food choices, glucocorticoids, insulin and abdominal obesity

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2009 Mar 5;300(1-2):137-46. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2008.09.036. Epub 2008 Oct 15.


Activity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is regulated by a negative feedback loop that dampens central drive of the axis via the actions of the secreted glucocorticoids. Conversely, under conditions of chronic stress, glucocorticoids delivered centrally increase hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) expression and the response to restraint. However, HPA axis activity and PVN CRF mRNA expression under chronic stress conditions are often reduced, implying other indirect peripheral or extra-hypothalamic glucocorticoid actions. Glucocorticoids chronically increase palatable food intake, which increases abdominal fat depots and circulating insulin levels, both of which negatively correlate with PVN CRF mRNA expression and may in turn dampen the response to stress. Such an effect is dependent on food choices, rather than total calories ingested. Considering stress is omnipresent in the workplace, palatable food ingestion may represent a means to combat the feeling of stress which is ultimately maladaptive when unresolved.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Eating
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Food Preferences*
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology
  • Stress, Physiological*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Insulin
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone