Stress-like adrenocorticotropin responses to caffeine in young healthy men

William R. Lovallo, Mustafa Al'Absi, Kenneth Blick, Thomas L. Whitsett, Michael F. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The effects of oral caffeine (3.3 mg/kg, equivalent to 2-3 cups of coffee) on plasma adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and cortisol (CORT) were tested in 47 healthy young men at rest in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Following caffeine, ACTH was significantly elevated at all times from 30 min to 180 min, and CORT was elevated from 60 min to 120 min (Fs ≤ 8.4, ps < 0.01). Peak increases relative to placebo were: ACTH, 33% (+5.2 pg/ml) and CORT, 30% (+2.7 μg/dl) at 60 min postcaffeine. The results suggest that caffeine can activate important components of the pituitary-adrenocortical response in humans during the resting state. Caffeine's known ability to increase CORT production appears at least partly due to an increase in ACTH release at the pituitary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-369
Number of pages5
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supportedb y the University of OklahomaH ealth Sciences Center Honors Research Program,NIH Grant No. HL32050, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. We thank Paresh Dandona, M.D., for his stimulating discussion and thoughtful reading of the manuscript of this article. We also thank Richard B. Passey, Ph.D., Gwen A. Pin-comb, Ph.D., Bong Hee Sung, Ph.D., Barbara McKey, R.N., Judith Silverstein, MS., Jack Shepard. B.S., Henry Fry, M.S.. and Terry McDowell, Ph.D. for their efforts.


  • ACTH
  • Caffeine
  • Cortisol


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