Cortisol—also called hydrocortisone—is a steroid hormone produced in the brain that is strongly associated with stress.

What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex in the brain, and is released in the blood stream, often in response to either physical or psychological stress. While cortisol is always present in the body, cortisol quantities vary throughout the day and are usually higher during the morning. People under immense stress often have higher cortisol levels. Tumors in the adrenal and pituitary glands can alter cortisol production.

What Does Cortisol Do?
Cortisol helps to give your body a quick burst of energy when it is under stress. As part of this energy boost cortisol also reduces immune function. Cortisol plays a role in fat and glucose metabolism, insulin release, blood pressure control, and the inflammatory response.

Cortisol and Health
Cortisol is designed to help the body develop a rapid response to stress, but long-term stress can cause your body to produce too much cortisol. This can lower immune functioning, resulting in frequent illness. Long-term cortisol release can also make people feel jittery and anxious and can raise blood pressure.

Because cortisol plays a role in fat metabolism, some diet pill companies have begun marketing products that claim to reduce cortisol and help people lose weight. These products often claim that they can reduce belly fat in a few short days or weeks. However, the evidence that these products work is slim, and the evidence that cortisol causes weight gain is mixed.


  1. Cortisol level. (n.d.). U.S National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from
  2. Renew – Stress on the brain. (n.d.). The Franklin Institute. Retrieved from
  3. Zeratsky, K. (2012, February 25). Can cortisol blockers such as CortiSlim help me lose weight? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 02-29-2016

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  • Kemical

    July 10th, 2017 at 8:10 PM

    Hmm, cortisol isn’t produced in the brain, nor is the adrenal cortex in the brain. The Pituitary gland(in the brain), releases ACTH to the adrenal glands, which stimulates the release of Cortisol.

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