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Stress plays a role in metabolic disorders

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  • Stress plays a role in metabolic disorders

Prolonged periods of stress are putting Australians at risk of hypocortisolism and therefore at risk of a number of health conditions, one such condition being osteoporosis.

Researchers in Japan found that both animal and human studies indicate that chronic psychological stress induces a decrease of bone mass and deterioration of bone quality by influencing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, sympathetic nervous system, and other endocrine and immune factors.[1]

Their 2015 literature review concluded that; 

‘Chronic stress activates the HPA axis and sympathetic nervous system, suppresses the secretion of gonadal hormone and growth hormone, and increases inflammatory cytokines, eventually leading to bone loss by inhibiting bone formation and stimulating bone resorption.’

Another study shows chronic stress is significantly associated with glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus.[2

While other studies reveal its affects on the cardiovascular system.[3,4

Research has revealed that sociodemographic factors, certain diseases, affective states, coping strategies and life circumstances as modulating variables of the acute prothrombotic stress response, and therefore influences in the development of cardiovascular issues and acute coronary syndromes (ACS).[3]

Studies have shown that intense emotions such as outbursts of anger and acute depressed mood increase the risk of ACS onset within two hours at least two-fold, and those with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) are the most vulnerable to suddenly die from a cardiac cause in the week after acute traumatic stress, such as inflicted by a natural disaster.[3]

‘Stress can generate many responses via activation of HPA axis and sympathetic nervous system and through blood pressure rise, insulin sensitivity drop (with or without hyperglycaemia) and activation of intravascular coagulation can lead to cardiovascular dysfunction.’[4

Evidence linking stress to many metabolic health conditions continues to grow, the challenge for clinicians is to ensure it's part of the case-taking process and to assist with, or refer patients for health services that can help manage, or mitigate these issues as part of the ongoing treatment plan.


  1. Azuma K, Adachi Y, Hayashi H, et al. Chronic psychological stress is a risk factor of osteoporosis. J Uoeh 2015;37(4):245-253.[Abstract]
  2. Siddiqui A, Madhu SV, Sharma SB, et al. Endocrine stress responses and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Stress 2015:1-9. [Epub ahead of print][Abstract]
  3. von Kanel R. Acute mental stress and homeostasis: when physiology becomes vascular harm. Thromb Res 2015;135(Suppl 1):S52-55.[Abstract]
  4. Rakhshan K, Imani A, Faghihi M, et al. Evaluation of chronic physical and psychological stress induction on cardiac ischemia/reperfusion injuries in isolated male rat heart: the role of sympathetic nervous system. Acta Med Iran 2015;53(8):482-490. [Abstract]



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Stephanie Berglin
Stephanie Berglin DBM, DipNut, BA Comms is a herbalist, nutritionist and iridologist with 12 years of clinical experience. Completing her studies at Sydney's renowned Natural Care College, Stephanie went on to found her own successful practice, whilst also working as a technical editor at one of Australia's leading nutraceutical companies.