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Baseline cortisol levels predict treatment outcomes in chronic fatigue syndrome non-pharmacologic clinical trial – Source: Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, vol. 14, 39-59.

  [ 15 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Leonard A. Jason, PhD, et al. • • July 15, 2008

[Note: Cortisol - the "stress hormone" - is involved in the body's response to stress, affecting factors such as blood pressure and blood sugar levels.] Objective: Understanding how non-pharmacological interventions differentially affect subgroups of patients with CFS might provide insights into the pathophysiology of this illness.

In this exploratory study, baseline measures of normal versus abnormal cortisol were compared on a variety of immune markers and other self-report measures.

Normal versus abnormal cortisol ratings were used as predictors in a nurse delivered non-pharmacologic intervention.


  • Participants diagnosed with CFS were assigned to 6-month non-pharmacologic interventions.
  • Individuals were classified as having abnormal or normal cortisol levels based on scores over the 5 testing times.
  • Cortisol levels were considered abnormal if they continued to rise, were flat, or were at abnormally low over time.

Results: Across interventions:

  • Those with abnormal cortisol at the baseline appeared not to improve over time,
  • Whereas those with normal baseline cortisol evidenced improvements on a number of immunologic and self-report measures.

Conclusion: It appears that, in subgroups of individuals with CFS, baseline cortisol markers are associated with outcome trajectories for non-pharmacologic treatment trials. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Source: Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; 14, 39-59. Jason LA, Torres-Harding S, Maher K, Reynolds N, Brown M, Sorenson M, Donalek J, Corradi K, Fletcher MA, Lu T. Center for Community Research, DePaul University, Chicago, USA. [E-mail: ljason@depauledu]

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