A Review of Cortisol: The “Stress Hormone”
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Cortisol, also known as hydrocortisone, is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex in the adrenal gland of mammals. The zona fasciculata is the tissue that produces this glucocorticoid in response to stimulation by Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH). Cortisol is classified as a glucocorticoid, which aids in metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Cortisol is commonly referred to as the stress hormone because it is involved in the body’s natural response to stress. Most cells in the body contain receptors for cortisol, allowing it to have many functions within the body . In normal cortisol release, its actions restore homeostasis after stress. Cortisol is responsible for controlling the body’s blood sugar levels, regulating metabolism. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and can promote the breakdown of glycogen, lipids, and proteins which reduces protein levels in most body cells. Cortisol influences memory formation, controls salt and water balance, and helps development of the fetus . Cortisol is responsible for triggering key processes during parturition in many species. Cortisol is produced by specific enzymes known as the P450 enzymes, which are located on chromosome ten, region CYP17. 11-beta HSD1 and 11-beta HSD2 are the enzymes associated with the metabolism of cortisol . The over or underproduction of cortisol can produce diseases within the body. Primary Hypercortisolism occurs when excessive levels of cortisol are present in the blood resulting in Cushing’s syndrome. Hypocortisolism or adrenal insufficiency results when the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol for the body. Addison’s disease refers to primary adrenal insufficiency, where the adrenal glands malfunction .