The changes and effect of stress hormone cortisol during extreme diet and exercise
Amoabeng, Abena Opokua
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Cortisol is one of the stress hormones produced as a result of stimulus to the hypothalamus triggering the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA).The result of cortisol production after this trigger is to return the body and its relevant systems back to homeostasis. This is a desired state of physiologic equilibrium in the body. A number of physiological and environmental conditions trigger the HPA pathway. This includes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), dehydration (low blood volume), exercise, which are considered stress triggers, and changes to the circadian cycle. It is no wonder then that extreme diet and exercise can impact the HPA axis due to the stress caused by such activities or lifestyle choices. Fortunately, the production of cortisol in response to exercise has been extensively studied. Generally, studies have shown that the level of plasma cortisol levels increase proportionally during high intensity exercise, while a general decrease has been observed during moderate or low intensity exercise (Davis & Few, 1973). In addition, several scientific texts provide substantial information on the correlation between hypoglycemia and cortisol synthesis. This information in addition to other sources has proven useful for assessing the effect of extreme dieting on cortisol production. The aim of this thesis is to expand on the changes in cortisol caused by extreme exercise and diet as well as elaborate on the physiological effects that these cortisol levels in turn may have.