A systematic review of the effect of oral glucocorticoids on energy intake, appetite, and body weight in humans

Nutr Res. 2014 Mar;34(3):179-90. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2013.12.006. Epub 2014 Jan 6.


Obesity is a serious risk factor for chronic disease, and commonly prescribed oral glucocorticoids (OCS) may be contributing to the prevalence of obesity. The objective of this review was to assess the impact of OCS on obesity in humans through effects on body weight (BW), energy intake, appetite, and body composition. An electronic search of English language peer-reviewed studies from 1973 up to March 2012 was conducted using Medline, CINAHL, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases. Original studies that addressed the effects of OCS on appetite, energy intake, BW, or body composition in adults were considered eligible. Data from 21 studies with objectively measured outcomes were extracted and assessed for quality using standardized tools. The publication year varied from 1986 to 2013, and the sample size, from 6 to 189. Energy intake was measured in 6 studies; BW, in 19 studies; energy expenditure, in 3 studies; body composition, in 6 studies; and appetite was evaluated in 3 studies. Short-term oral glucocorticoid therapy may result in small increases in energy intake but does not appear to result in increased BW, possibly due to an increase in energy expenditure. Long-term therapy may result in clinically significant weight gain. Within-subject variation due to metabolism and physical activity levels confounds the relationship. A dose-response relationship of oral glucocorticoid therapy on energy intake, appetite, BW, or body composition was not found. Additional well-designed, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials that use standardized doses of OCS and assess the effects on appetite, energy intake, BW, and composition are strongly justified to confirm the findings of this review.

Keywords: Appetite; Body weight; Energy intake; Glucocorticoids; Obesity; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Appetite / drug effects*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Energy Intake / drug effects*
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Glucocorticoids