Stress hormones: physiological stress and regulation of metabolism

Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2009 Dec;9(6):787-93. doi: 10.1016/j.coph.2009.08.007. Epub 2009 Sep 14.


Stress, defined as a state of threatened homeostasis, mobilizes a complex spectrum of adaptive physiologic and behavioral responses that aim to re-establish the challenged body homeostasis. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) constitute the main effector pathways of the stress system, mediating its adaptive functions. In western societies, indices of stress correlate with increasing rates of both obesity and metabolic syndrome which have reached epidemic proportions. Recent data indicate that chronic stress, associated with mild hypercortisolemia and prolonged SNS activation, favors accumulation of visceral fat and contributes to the clinical presentation of visceral obesity, type 2 diabetes, and related cardiometabolic complications. Reciprocally, obesity promotes a systemic low-grade inflammation state, mediated by increased adipokine secretion, which can chronically stimulate the stress system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Hormones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications
  • Models, Biological
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism*
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / metabolism
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology


  • Hormones