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Cortisol, alpha amylase, blood pressure and heart rate responses to food intake in men aged 50–70 years: importance of adiposity

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posted on 2023-05-20, 08:18 authored by Sisitha JayasingheSisitha Jayasinghe, Torres, SJ, Nowson, CA, Tilbrook, AJ, Turner, AI

Background: Increased adiposity is often associated with over activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary adrenal axis (HPA axis) and the sympatho-adrenal medullary system (SAM system) and excessive activation of these pathways in response to physiological challenges may be linked with the development of diseases. We tested the hypothesis that overweight/obese men aged 50–70 years will have greater HPA axis and SAM system responses to food intake compared with age matched lean men.

Lean (Body Mass Index; BMI = 20-25 kg/m2; n = 19) and overweight/obese (BMI = 27-35 kg/m2; n = 17) men (50–70 years) made their own lunch using standardised ingredients at 1200 h. Concentrations of cortisol and alpha amylase were measured in saliva samples collected every 15 min from 1145 h-1400 h with the exception of during lunch (1215 h) where no sample was collected. Blood pressures and heart rate were measured at 1145 h and every 15 minutes between 1245 h and 1400 h.

Results: Overweight/obese men had significantly higher body weight, BMI, percentage body fat and waist and hip circumferences compared to lean men (p < 0.001 for all). The meal consumed by the participants consisted of 22% protein, 53% carbohydrates and 25% fat. Overweight/obese men responded to lunch with a significant increase in cortisol whereas lean men did not show such an increase (time*treatment p = 0.008). There were no significant differences between the groups in the salivary alpha amylase response to the meal (time*treatment p = 0.195) or in SBP, DBP, MAP or HR responses (time*treatment p = 0.726, 0.898, 0.713, 0.620, respectively).

Conclusions: While men with a moderate level of overweight/obesity had a significant HPA axis response (as measured by salivary cortisol) to a standardised lunch, lean men had no HPA axis response. Lean and overweight/obese men had similar increases in SAM system activity (as measured by salivary alpha amylase) in response to the meal.


Publication title

BMC Obesity

Article number









School of Health Sciences


BioMed Central Ltd.

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2014 Jayasinghe et al. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Clinical health not elsewhere classified

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