BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Tissue-specific glucocorticoid metabolism is altered in obesity, and may increase cardiovascular risk. This dysregulation is normalized by short-term calorie restriction and weight loss, an effect that varies with dietary macronutrient composition. However, tissue-specific glucocorticoid metabolism has not been studied during long-term (>6 months) dietary interventions. Therefore our aim was to test whether long-term dietary interventions, either a paleolithic-type diet (PD) or a diet according to Nordic nutrition recommendations (NNR) could normalize tissue-specific glucocorticoid metabolism in overweight and obese women.
SUBJECTS/METHODS: Forty-nine overweight/obese postmenopausal women were randomized to a paleolithic diet or a diet according to NNR for 24 months. At baseline, 6 and 24 months anthropometric measurements, insulin sensitivity, excretion of urinary glucocorticoid metabolites in 24-hour collections, conversion of orally administered cortisone to plasma cortisol and transcript levels of 11β hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11βHSD1) in subcutaneous adipose tissue were studied.
RESULTS: Both diet groups achieved significant and sustained weight loss. Weight loss with the PD was greater than on NNR diet after 6 months (P<0.001) but similar at 24 months. Urinary measurement of 5α-reductase activity was increased after 24 months in both groups compared with baseline (P<0.001). Subcutaneous adipose tissue 11βHSD1 gene expression decreased at 6 and 24 months in both diet groups (P=0.036). Consistent with increased liver 11βHSD1, conversion of oral cortisone to cortisol increased at 6 months (P=0.023) but was unchanged compared with baseline by 24 months.
CONCLUSIONS: Long-term weight loss in postmenopausal women has tissue-specific and time-dependent effects on glucocorticoid metabolism. This may alter local-tissue cortisol exposure contributing to improved metabolic function during weight loss.