Recent data suggest that higher plasma cortisol may be associated with hypertension and insulin resistance in otherwise healthy men, as it is in Cushing's syndrome. However, obesity in women is associated with lower plasma cortisol concentrations. This study sought to establish whether plasma cortisol is associated with cardiovascular risk factors in women as it is in men, and whether these relationships in either sex are confounded by obesity.
A population-based cross-sectional study.
The MONICA study in northern Sweden.
From a target cohort of 2500, 1921 subjects took part and 226 were randomly selected because they attended between 07.00 and 09.00 h after an overnight fast. A 75 g oral glucose tolerance test was performed and blood sampled at baseline and 2 h after glucose.
Plasma cortisol was lower in relatively obese subjects: in men, this was observed only in the 2 h sample (r = -0.23, P = 0.02) and in women only in the fasting sample (r = -0.26, P