Purpose of review
Various threatening stimuli, such as pain, low blood pressure, or infection, elicit a set of neuroendocrine responses that include an increased secretion of catecholamines and glucocorticoid from the adrenal gland and activation of the sympathetic nervous system
. These hormonal secretions allow a ‘fight or flight’ response by mobilizing endogenous substrate. They also exert anti-insulin actions, and may in the long term induce a state of insulin resistance
. In addition, stress stimulates inflammatory mediators in mononuclear cells. Given the possible role of low-grade inflammation in chronic metabolic disorders, this suggests that stress may be a factor in the development of insulin resistance
and the metabolic syndrome.
Studies reviewed in this article cover: (1) the metabolic and haemodynamic effects of stress in healthy and insulin-resistant individuals; (2) the relationship between stress and inflammation and the role of the autonomic nervous system; and (3) some factors known to modulate the neuroendocrine responses to stress. Future perspectives, together with some hints regarding the role of neurotrophins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor
, are delineated.
Recent work performed in the field has indicated that stress may be a significant factor in the pathogenesis of metabolic disorders. Nutritional intervention or pharmacological agents targeted at modulating stress should be investigated.