▸ Metabolic syndrome (MetS) may have increased cortisol (F) production. ▸ F is metabolized by liver reductases into inactive tetrahydrometabolites (THM). ▸ Urinary THM was associated with MetS, hypertension, triglycerides and HOMA-IR. ▸ THM was negatively correlated with adiponectin, HOMA-β and HDL. ▸ Increased F production may account for similarities of MetS and Cushing's syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) may have increased cortisol (F) production caused by 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (11β-HSD1) in liver and adipose tissue and/or by HPA axis dysregulation. F is then mainly metabolized by liver reductases into inactive tetrahydrometabolites (THMs). We measured THM levels in patients with or without MetS and evaluate the correlation between THMs and anthropometric and biochemical parameters. We recruited 221 subjects, of whom 130 had MetS by ATP III. We evaluated F, cortisone (E), adipokines, glucose, insulin and lipid profiles as well as urinary (24 h) F, E and THM levels. β Cell function was estimated by the HOMA Calculator. We observed that patients with MetS showed higher levels of THMs, HOMA-IR and leptin and lower levels of adiponectin and HOMA-β but no differences in F and E in plasma or urine. THM was associated with weight (r = +0.44, p < 0.001), waist circumference (r = +0.38, p < 0.01), glycemia (r = +0.37, p < 0.01), and triglycerides (r = +0.18, p = 0.06) and negatively correlated with adiponectin (r = −0.36, p < 0.001), HOMA-β (r = −0.21, p < 0.001) and HDL (r = −0.29, p < 0.01). In a logistic regression model, THM levels were associated with hypertension, hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia. We conclude that MetS is associated with increased urinary THMs but not with F and E levels in plasma or urine. Increased levels of THM, reflecting the daily cortisol production subsequently metabolized, are correlated with hypoadiponectinemia, hypertension, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and β cell dysfunction. A subtle increased in glucocorticoid production may further account for the phenotypic and biochemical similarities observed in central obesity and Cushing's syndrome.