Circadian Rhythm of Cortisol in Different Menstrual Cycle Stages of Clinically Healthy Women


Authors: Colette Sandborgh, Linda Sackett-Lundeen, and Germaine Cornelissen
Page Range: 39-47
Published in: World Heart Journal, 15#1 (2023)
ISSN: 1556-4002

Table of Contents


Aim. To test for any difference in circadian characteristics or pulsatile behavior of circulating cortisol across different menstrual cycle stages in clinically healthy women.
Background. Cortisol undergoes a large-amplitude circadian rhythm peaking shortly after awakening. Like other hormones such as LH and FSH, it is also characterized by a pulsatile behavior. Whether these features of variability in cortisol undergo changes related to the menstrual cycle is not clear. Methods. This investigation relies on data collected as part of an earlier large chrono-epidemiological study. The data from 26 clinically healthy women who provided 85 records are reanalyzed herein. The data had been collected at 20-minute intervals over 24 hours. The study was designed to sample each participant once in each season in a different menstrual cycle stage (early follicular, late follicular, early luteal, and late luteal stage). A 24-hour cosine curve fitted to each record yielded individual estimates of the MESOR (Midline Estimating Statistic Of Rhythm, a rhythm-adjusted mean value), amplitude (a measure of the predictable extent of change within 24 hours) and acrophase (a measure of the predictable timing of overall high values recurring each day). The approach of Veldhuis and Johnson to characterize the pulsatile behavior of hormones was modified to determine the number of peaks and troughs, and their respective widths and heights. The Student t-test and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) were used to compare endpoints among different stages of the menstrual cycle. Results. No differences in circadian characteristics or features of the pulsatile behavior of circulating cortisol were found between menstrual cycle stages of clinically healthy women. Discussion and Conclusion. Published results do not agree regarding any difference in cortisol between the follicular and luteal stages of the menstrual cycle. Analyses herein identify barriers in addressing this question and offer guidelines in designing future studies.

Keywords: circadian, cortisol, menstrual cycle, pulsatile behavior

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