Adrenal activity in anorexia nervosa

B. T. Walsh, J. L. Katz, J. Levin, J. Kream, D. K. Fukushima, L. D. Hellman, H. Weiner, B. Zumoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Adrenocortical activity was studied in 19 emaciated women with anorexia nervosa. Relative to body size the patients' mean cortisol production rates of 0.591 mg/kg/day and 16.4 mg m2/day were significantly elevated compared to those of 0.322 mg/kg/day and 11.4 mg/m2/day for age and sex matched normal controls. The 24 hr mean plasma cortisol concentration in 18 patients was 10.6 μg/dl and was significantly higher than that of the controls (6.8 μg/dl). The average excretion of urinary free cortisol in nine patients was 205 μg/day, significantly greater than that of 65μg/day in the controls. Three patients underwent overnight suppression with 1 mg of dexamethasone and had inadequate responses. These data suggest that cortisol production is excessive in emaciated patients with anorexia nervosa due to a disturbance of the hypothalamic pituitary mechanisms regulating adrenocortical function. The excessive adrenal activity may reflect certain psychobiological disturbances as well as the effects of malnutrition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-506
Number of pages8
JournalUnknown Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1978


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