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Anna C Phillips, Douglas Carroll, Catharine R Gale, Janet M Lord, Wiebke Arlt and G David Batty

Objectives

The aim of the present analyses was to examine the association between cortisol, DHEA sulphate (DHEAS) and the cortisol:DHEAS ratio and mortality.

Design

This was a prospective cohort analysis.

Methods

Participants were 4255 Vietnam-era US army veterans. From military service files, telephone interviews and a medical examination, occupational, socio-demographic and health data were collected. Contemporary morning fasted cortisol and DHEAS concentrations were determined. Mortality was tracked over the subsequent 15 years. The outcomes were all-cause, cardiovascular disease, cancer, other medical mortality and external causes of death. Cox proportional hazard models were tested, initially with adjustment for age, and then with adjustment for a range of candidate confounders.

Results

In general, cortisol concentrations did not show an association with all-cause or cause-specific mortality. However, in age-adjusted and fully adjusted analyses, DHEAS was negatively related to all-cause, all cancers and other medical mortality; high DHEAS concentrations were protective. The cortisol:DHEAS ratio was also associated with these outcomes in both age-adjusted and fully adjusted models; the higher the ratio, the greater the risk of death.

Conclusions

DHEAS was negatively associated, and the ratio of cortisol to DHEAS was positively associated with all-cause, cancer and other medical cause mortality. Further experimental study is needed to elucidate the mechanisms involved in these relationships.

Free access

Anna C Phillips, Douglas Carroll, Catharine R Gale, Janet M Lord, Wiebke Arlt and G David Batty

Objectives

The aim of these analyses was to examine the association of cortisol, DHEAS and the cortisol:DHEAS ratio with the metabolic syndrome (MetS) and its components.

Design

The analyses were cross-sectional.

Methods

Participants were 4255 Vietnam era US army veterans. From military service files, telephone interviews and a medical examination, occupational, socio-demographic and health data were collected. MetS was ascertained from data on body mass index; fasting blood glucose or a diagnosis of diabetes; blood pressure or a diagnosis of hypertension; high-density lipoprotein cholesterol; and triglyceride levels. Contemporary morning fasted cortisol and DHEAS concentrations were determined. The outcomes were MetS and its components. Analysis was by logistic regression, first adjusting for age and then additionally for an array of candidate confounders.

Results

Cortisol, although not in the fully adjusted analysis, and DHEAS were both related to MetS. Whereas high cortisol concentrations were associated with an increased risk of MetS, high DHEAS concentrations appeared protective. By far, the strongest associations with MetS were observed for the cortisol:DHEAS ratio; the higher the ratio, the greater the risk of having MetS. The ratio was also significantly related to four of the five MetS components.

Conclusions

The cortisol:DHEAS ratio is positively associated with MetS. Prospective analyses are needed to help untangle direction of causality, but this study suggests that the cortisol:DHEAS ratio is worthy of further study in this and other health contexts.