The impact of chronic stress on energy metabolism

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2020 Sep;107:103525. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2020.103525. Epub 2020 Jul 3.


The brain is exceptionally demanding in terms of energy metabolism. Approximately 20% of the calories consumed are devoted to our cerebral faculties, with the lion's share provided in the form of glucose. The brain's stringent energy dependency requires a high degree of harmonization between the elements responsible for supplying- and metabolizing energetic substrates. However, chronic stress may jeopardize this homeostatic energy balance by disruption of critical metabolic processes. In agreement, stress-related mental disorders have been linked with perturbations in energy metabolism. Prominent stress-induced metabolic alterations include the actions of hormones, glucose uptake and mitochondrial adjustments. Importantly, fundamental stress-responsive metabolic adjustments in humans and animal models bear a striking resemblance. Here, an overview is provided of key findings, demonstrating the pervasive impact of chronic stress on energy metabolism. Furthermore, I argue that medications, aimed primarily at restoring metabolic homeostasis, may constitute a novel approach to treat mental disorders.

Keywords: Brain; Glucose; Metabolism; Resilience; Stress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*


  • Glucose