There is a clear connection between the stress hormone cortisol and higher blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (T2D), according to a study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology.
The researchers explained that in healthy people, cortisol naturally fluctuates throughout the day. This natural fluctuation is generally a spike in the morning and a fall at night. However, patients with T2D have flatter cortisol levels throughout the day with higher glucose levels.
Prior research has demonstrated that both stress and depression are leading causes of flattened cortisol levels during the day, according to the current study. Sustained cortisol levels then make controlling blood sugar far more difficult, which also makes managing the disease more difficult. For this reason, it is important for patients with T2D to reduce stress as much as possible.
"We have begun a new trial to examine if mindfulness practices can lower blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes," said study lead Joshua J. Joseph, MD, an endocrinologist and researcher at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center's Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center, in a press release. "But this isn't the only effective form of stress relief. It's important to find something you enjoy and make it a part of your everyday routine."
Although this relationship between cortisol and glucose levels was observed in patients with T2D, the researchers believe that the stress hormone likely also plays a role in diabetes prevention. Additionally, the researchers noted that there may be a connection between cortisol and the development of cardiovascular disease that they plan to investigate further.
According to the CDC, there are more than 30 million Americans with T2D. Some patients with the disease are able to manage it by controlling their blood sugar levels through healthy eating and exercise. However, other patients may need medication or insulin in order to successfully manage the disease.
"Most people with type 2 diabetes know the importance of exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of rest. But stress relief is a crucial and often forgotten component of diabetes management," Joseph said. "Whether it's a yoga class, taking a walk or reading a book, finding ways to lower your stress levels is important to everyone's overall health, especially for those with type 2 diabetes."
Study links stress hormone with higher blood sugar in Type 2 diabetes. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; July 13, 2020. eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/m-sls070720.php. Accessed August 19, 2020.