Cortisol Regulation and Your Health: The Real Story

Cortisol is a hormone (chemical) produced by the adrenal glands which is essential for life. Without cortisol the blood pressure would drop and shock followed by death would occur. Cortisol is also thought to play a role in general maintenance of the body’s tissues and functions. Conditions of excessive adrenal cortisol production known as Cushing’s syndrome cause high blood pressure, thinning of the skin, storage of fat in the abdomen, defective immune function, and mood disorders such as depression. People who take steroids such as Prednisone, Dexamethasone, and Hydrocortisone in high doses over long periods of time can also develop the complications of Cushing’s Syndrome.

Several products now on the market claim to help regulate cortisol levels to assist in weight loss. The theory is that stress due to our environment or to dieting itself leads to excessive cortisol production which then leads to fat (and weight) accumulation in the body. These products then claim to reduce these harmful cortisol effects on the body.

As a practicing endocrinologist and author of a textbook chapter on the effects of cortisol on the body, I think I understand this problem fairly well. Over the last 25 years I have treated a number of individuals with excessive cortisol levels due to Cushing’s Syndrome. The treatments must be monitored very carefully to avoid dropping the cortisol levels too low, as well as to prevent serious side-effects of the medications themselves. Since cortisol is essential for life, too much lowering of this hormone can be as bad as too much cortisol.

I was fascinated when I first heard about supposed over-the-counter cortisol regulators. From a medical point of view it would be a great advance if these products could do what they claim. I was skeptical however, because if a product could decrease cortisol levels it could also kill you by dropping levels too low. If these products really worked as well as the advertisements stated wouldn’t there be people dying from overdoses?

Since then I have reviewed the claims of adrenal gland regulation by over-the-counter products. I have reviewed their lists of ingredients. These products seem more appropriate as hair gel then cortisol regulators. I found nothing to indicate they have any beneficial effects on cortisol levels what-so-ever. What is amazing to me is that with nothing to substantiate their claims, no regulatory agency has stepped in to stop their sales. I suggest you ask you own doctor their opinion of these supposed cortisol regulators before spending your hard earned money on them.

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