Researchers examining developmental antecedents of depression in adolescents looked at the relationship between cognitive vulnerabilities and poor recovery of the biological stress system as measured through heart rate and cortisol. In their study published in February 2016, authors found a strong link between higher depressive symptoms and the combination of greater cognitive vulnerabilities and lower cortisol and heart rate recovery.
Cortisol is the primary glucocorticoid produced and secreted by the adrenal cortex. It is often referred to as the “stress hormone” as it is involved in the response to stress, affecting blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and other actions of stress adaptation.
In addition, cortisol functions as an important anti-inflammatory and plays a role in hypersensitivity, immunosuppression and disease resistance. In metabolic processes, cortisol promotes gluconeogenesis, liver glycogen deposition, and the reduction of glucose utilization.
One of the most important effects of circulating levels of cortisol is in blood pressure regulation. The importance is highlighted by pathophysiological conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome, where increased cortisol secretion results in hypertension, and Addison’s disease, where inadequate corticosteroid production causes life-threatening hypotension. Cortisol can also exert negative affects on the cardiovascular system at an autocrine level in the presence of an alteration in cortisol metabolism, despite normal circulating cortisol concentrations.
Cortisol is synthesized from cholesterol and converted into other glucocorticoids by the two distinct isozymes of 11ß-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11ß-HSD) that catalyze the interconversion of active cortisol and inactive cortisone. In humans, the type 1 enzyme (11ß-HSD1) is widely distributed but most abundant in liver and adipose tissue. This enzyme functions mainly as an oxoreductase, converting cortisone to cortisol. The type 2 isozyme (11ß-HSD2), which serves to protect the mineralocorticoid receptor from glucocorticoid excess, is found predominantly in the mineralocorticoid target tissues of kidney, colon, and salivary gland.
For non-invasive measurement of cortisol in urine, fecal extracts, hair, saliva or nails, try the Arbor Assays Cortisol EIA kits (K003-H1 & K003-H5).
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