Author(s): Kirschbaum C, Schommer N, Federenko I, Gaab J, Neumann O,
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Abstract Evidence from animal studies and clinical observations suggest that the activity of the pituitary-adrenal axis is under significant influence of sex steroids. The present study investigated how a short term elevation of estradiol levels affects ACTH, cortisol, norepinephrine, and heart rate responses to mental stress in healthy men. In a double blind study, 16 men received a patch delivering 0.1 mg estradiol/day transdermally, and age- and body mass index-matched control subjects received a placebo patch. Twenty-four to 48 h later, they were exposed to a brief psychosocial stressor (free speech and mental arithmetic in front of an audience). In response to the psychosocial stressor, ACTH, cortisol, norepinephrine, and heart rate were increased in both experimental groups (all P < 0.0001). However, the estradiol-treated subjects showed exaggerated peak ACTH (P < 0.001) and cortisol (P < 0.002) responses compared to the placebo group. Also, the norepinephrine area under the response curve was greater in the estradiol group (P < 0.05). Although heart rate responses differences failed to reach statistical significance, they, too, tended to be larger in the estradiol group. Neither mood ratings before or after the stressor, nor ratings of the perception of the stressor could explain the observed endocrine response differences. In conclusion, short term estradiol administration resulted in hyperresponses of the pituitary-adrenal axis and norepinephrine to psychosocial stress in healthy young men independent of psychological effects, as assessed in this study.
This article was published in J Clin Endocrinol Metab
and referenced in Journal of Depression and Anxiety