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      Salivary Cortisol and DHEA Levels in the Korean Population: Age-Related Differences, Diurnal Rhythm, and Correlations with Serum Levels


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          The primary objective of this study was to examine the changes of basal cortisol and DHEA levels present in saliva and serum with age, and to determine the correlation coefficients of steroid concentrations between saliva and serum. The secondary objective was to obtain a standard diurnal rhythm of salivary cortisol and DHEA in the Korean population.

          Materials and Methods

          For the first objective, saliva and blood samples were collected between 10 and 11 AM from 359 volunteers ranging from 21 to 69 years old (167 men and 192 women). For the second objective, four saliva samples (post-awakening, 11AM, 4PM, and bedtime) were collected throughout a day from 78 volunteers (42 women and 36 men) ranging from 20 to 40 years old. Cortisol and DHEA levels were measured using a radioimmunoassay (RIA).


          The morning cortisol and DHEA levels, and the age-related steroid decline patterns were similar in both genders. Serum cortisol levels significantly decreased around forty years of age ( p < 0.001, when compared with people in their 20s), and linear regression analysis with age showed a significant declining pattern (slope = -2.29, t = -4.297, p < 0.001). However, salivary cortisol levels did not change significantly with age, but showed a tendency towards decline (slope = -0.0078, t = -0.389, p = 0.697). The relative cortisol ratio of serum to saliva was 3.4-4.5% and the ratio increased with age (slope = 0.051, t = 3.61, p < 0.001). DHEA levels also declined with age in saliva (slope = -0.007, t = -3.76, p < 0.001) and serum (slope = -0.197 t = -4.88, p < 0.001). In particular, DHEA levels in saliva and serum did not start to significantly decrease until ages in the 40s, but then decreased significantly further at ages in the 50s (p < 0.001, when compared with the 40s age group) and 60s (p < 0.001, when compared with the 50 age group). The relative DHEA ratio of serum to saliva was similar throughout the ages examined (slop = 0.0016, t = 0.344, p = 0.73). On the other hand, cortisol and DHEA levels in saliva reflected well those in serum (r = 0.59 and 0.86, respectively, p < 0.001). The highest salivary cortisol levels appeared just after awakening (about two fold higher than the 11 AM level), decreased throughout the day, and reached the lowest levels at bedtime ( p < 0.001, when compared with PM cortisol levels). The highest salivary DHEA levels also appeared after awakening (about 1.5 fold higher than the 11AM level) and decreased by 11AM ( p < 0.001). DHEA levels did not decrease further until bedtime ( p = 0.11, when compared with PM DHEA levels).


          This study showed that cortisol and DHEA levels change with age and that the negative slope of DHEA was steeper than that of cortisol in saliva and serum. As the cortisol and DHEA levels in saliva reflected those in serum, the measurement of steroid levels in saliva provide a useful and practical tool to evaluate adrenal functions, which are essential for clinical diagnosis.

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          Most cited references44

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          Age trends in the level of serum testosterone and other hormones in middle-aged men: longitudinal results from the Massachusetts male aging study.

          We used longitudinal data from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, a large population-based random-sample cohort of men aged 40-70 yr at baseline, to establish normative age trends for serum level of T and related hormones in middle-aged men and to test whether general health status affected the age trends. Of 1,709 men enrolled in 1987-1989, 1,156 were followed up 7-10 yr afterward. By repeated-measures statistical analysis, we estimated simultaneously the cross-sectional age trend of each hormone between subjects within the baseline data, the cross-sectional trend between subjects within the follow-up data, and the longitudinal trend within subjects between baseline and follow-up. Total T declined cross-sectionally at 0.8%/yr of age within the follow-up data, whereas both free and albumin-bound T declined at about 2%/yr, all significantly more steeply than within the baseline data. Sex hormone-binding globulin increased cross-sectionally at 1.6%/yr in the follow-up data, similarly to baseline. The longitudinal decline within subjects between baseline and follow-up was considerably steeper than the cross-sectional trend within measurement times for total T (1.6%/yr) and bioavailable T (2-3%/yr). Dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, cortisol, and estrone showed significant longitudinal declines, whereas dihydrotestosterone, pituitary gonadotropins, and PRL rose longitudinally. Apparent good health, defined as absence of chronic illness, prescription medication, obesity, or excessive drinking, added 10-15% to the level of several androgens and attenuated the cross-sectional trends in T and LH but did not otherwise affect longitudinal or cross-sectional trends. The paradoxical finding that longitudinal age trends were steeper than cross-sectional trends suggests that incident poor health may accelerate the age-related decline in androgen levels.
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            Salivary cortisol in psychoneuroendocrine research: recent developments and applications.

            The assessment of cortisol in saliva has proven a valid and reliable reflection of the respective unbound hormone in blood. To date, assessment of cortisol in saliva is a widely accepted and frequently employed method in psychoneuroendocrinology. Due to several advantages over blood cortisol analyses (e.g., stress-free sampling, laboratory independence, lower costs) saliva cortisol assessment can be the method of choice in basic research and clinical environments. The determination of cortisol in saliva can facilitate stress studies including newborns and infants and replace blood sampling for diagnostic endocrine tests like the dexamethasone suppression test. The present paper provides an up-to-date overview of recent methodological developments, novel applications as well as a discussion of possible future applications of salivary cortisol determination.
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              On the interactions of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sleep: normal HPA axis activity and circadian rhythm, exemplary sleep disorders.

              The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis plays important roles in maintaining alertness and modulating sleep. Dysfunction of this axis at any level (CRH receptor, glucocorticoid receptor, or mineralocorticoid receptor) can disrupt sleep. Herein, we review normal sleep, normal HPA axis physiology and circadian rhythm, the effects of the HPA axis on sleep, as well as the effects of sleep on the HPA axis. We also discuss the potential role of CRH in circadian-dependent alerting, aside from its role in the stress response. Two clinically relevant sleep disorders with likely HPA axis dysfunction, insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea, are discussed. In insomnia, we discuss how HPA axis hyperactivity may be partially causal to the clinical syndrome. In obstructive sleep apnea, we discuss how HPA axis hyperactivity may be a consequence of the disorder and contribute to secondary pathology such as insulin resistance, hypertension, depression, and insomnia. Mechanisms by which cortisol can affect slow wave sleep are discussed, as is the role the HPA axis plays in secondary effects of primary sleep disorders.

                Author and article information

                Yonsei Med J
                Yonsei Medical Journal
                Yonsei University College Medicine
                30 June 2007
                20 June 2007
                : 48
                : 3
                : 379-388
                [1 ]Graduate School of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, PoChon CHA Medical University, Seoul, Korea.
                [2 ]Hormone Research Center, Chonnam National University, Kwangju, Korea.
                Author notes
                Reprint address: requests to Dr. Se-il Chun, Graduate School of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Pochon CHA Medical University, 605 Yuksam-dong, Kangnam-gu, Seoul 135-913, Korea. Tel: 82-2-3468-3401, Fax: 82-2-3468-3345, chunscam@ 123456yahoo.com
                Copyright © 2007 The Yonsei University College of Medicine

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0) which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Original Article

                saliva cortisol,diurnal rhythm,saliva dhea,age-related changes,correlation
                saliva cortisol, diurnal rhythm, saliva dhea, age-related changes, correlation


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