Modifying influence of dietary sugar in the relationship between cortisol and visceral adipose tissue in minority youth


  • Funding agencies: This work was supported by the following: Grants: U54CA116848 from the National Cancer Institute, R01HD0033064 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 1P60MD002254-03 from the Office of Minority Health, 1K01DK078858 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, and USC Graduate Provost Fellowship.

  • Disclosure: The authors declared no conflict of interest.



Cortisol has been associated with preferential visceral adipose tissue (VAT) deposition; however, findings in humans are mixed, which may be clarified when diet is considered.

Design and Methods

Participants included 165 African-American and Latino, overweight adolescents (BMI% 97.2±3.2%, ages 13-18, 67% Latino, 66% female). Body composition was determined by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, abdominal fat depots [VAT, subcutaneous (SAT)] by multiple-slice MRI, time-controlled serum sample to measure cortisol, and 2-day multi-pass 24-hour dietary recall. Linear regression analysis examined the cross-sectional relationship between cortisol, and the interaction of diet and cortisol on adiposity measures. Sex, race, age, and total body fat were a priori covariates.


There was a significant interaction between cortisol and sugar (total and added) in the prediction of VAT (Pinteraction ≤ 0.05). Amongst participants with high total or added-sugar intake, cortisol was significantly associated with VAT (ß = 0.031 P < 0.001; ß = 0.026 P < 0.001), with no relationship in low consumers of total or added-sugar.


Dietary sugar may play an important role in modifying the relationship between cortisol and VAT, such that cortisol is significantly associated with elevated VAT under conditions of high sugar intake.