Effect of fat distribution on the pharmacokinetics of cortisol in obesity

Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1998 Sep;36(9):501-5.


Objective: Patients with predominantly upper body obesity are at greater risk for developing diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Little is known about the mechanisms involved in the regulation of regional body distribution. It has been accepted that the accumulation of fat into adipose tissue depends on regional metabolic regulation of adipocytes and that glucocorticoids play a role in this mechanism. The aim of the present study is to investigate how the pharmacokinetics of cortisol correlate to intraabdominal and subcutaneous fat distribution in obese patients.

Methods: A group of 24 obese patients (13 males and 11 females) were submitted to a CT scan for intraabdominal and subcutaneous fat area evaluation. A 30-min cortisol infusion (0.25 mg/kg) was administered and plasma cortisol was measured over 6 hours.

Results: Patients with larger intraabdominal fat areas were found to have a higher cortisol clearance than those with lower intraabdominal fat areas. Cortisol clearance (both, absolute and body-weight corrected) showed a statistically significant correlation with intraabdominal fat area, either expressed by waist-hip ratio or obtained by computerized tomography.

Conclusions: These findings indicate a more effective clearance capability for cortisol in patients with central obesity resulting in lowered cortisol plasma levels despite an increased cortisol secretion observed in this patient group.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / pharmacokinetics*
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Hydrocortisone