The effect of glucocorticoids on adipose tissue lipolysis in animals and humans is controversial. To determine whether a physiological increase in plasma cortisol, similar to that observed in diabetic ketoacidosis and other stress conditions, stimulates lipolysis, palmitate kinetics were measured in seven nondiabetic volunteers on two occasions with [1-14C]palmitate as a tracer. Subjects received a 6-h infusion of either 2 μg · kg−1 · min−1 hydrocortisone or saline in random order. On both occasions, a pancreatic clamp (0.12 μg · kg−1 · min−1 somatostatin, 0.05 mU · kg−1 · min−1 insulin, and 3 ng · kg−1 · min−1 growth hormone) was used to maintain plasma hormone concentrations at desired levels. Plasma cortisol concentrations increased to ∼970 nM during cortisol infusion. Palmitate rate of appearance (Ra) and concentration increased by ∼60% during cortisol infusion but did not change during saline infusion. Increments in palmitate Ra and concentration over the 6-h study were significantly greater during cortisol than saline infusion when compared by area-under-the-curve analysis (152 ± 52 vs. −48 ± 23 μmol · kg−1 and 12.2 ± 4.1 vs. −4.9 ± 4.1 mmol · min−1 · L−1, respectively; P < 0.02). Plasma glucose concentrations did not change significantly during cortisol (5.0 ± 0.3 vs. 6.1 ± 0.6 mM, NS) or saline (4.9 ± 0.2 vs. 4.9 ± 0.1 mM, NS) infusion. In nondiabetic volunteers, a 6-h cortisol infusion was associated with a 60% increase in palmitate Ra that did not occur with saline infusion. Thus, physiological hypercortisolemia may contribute to the increased rates of lipolysis observed in humans during stress.

This content is only available via PDF.