Hair Cortisol and Adiposity in a Population-Based Sample of 2,527 Men and Women Aged 54 to 87 Years

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Mar;25(3):539-544. doi: 10.1002/oby.21733.

Abstract

Objective: Chronic cortisol exposure is hypothesized to contribute to obesity. This study examined associations between hair cortisol concentrations, a novel indicator of long-term cortisol exposure, and adiposity in a large population-based sample.

Methods: Data were from 2,527 men and women aged 54 and older (98% white British) participating in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Hair cortisol concentrations were determined from the scalp-nearest 2 cm hair segment, and height, weight, and waist circumference were objectively measured. Covariates included age, sex, socioeconomic status, smoking status, diabetes, and arthritis.

Results: In cross-sectional analyses, hair cortisol concentrations were positively correlated with weight (r = 0.102, P < 0.001), BMI (r = 0.101, P < 0.001), and waist circumference (r = 0.082, P = 0.001) and were significantly elevated in participants with obesity (BMI ≥30 kg/m2 ) (F = 6.58, P = 0.001) and raised waist circumference (≥102 cm in men, ≥88 cm in women) (F = 4.87, P = 0.027). Hair cortisol levels were also positively associated with the persistence of obesity (F = 12.70, P < 0.001), evaluated in retrospect over 4 years.

Conclusions: Chronic exposure to elevated cortisol concentrations, assessed in hair, is associated with markers of adiposity and with the persistence of obesity over time.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Waist Circumference / physiology

Substances

  • Biomarkers
  • Hydrocortisone