The Role of Glucocorticoids to maintain Energy Homeostasis during Starvation – The Gluco-Starve Study


The assessment of heart rate variability in this project will be crucial for understanding the impact of glucocorticoids on physiological adaptations to fasting. Monitoring metabolic parameters and heart rate changes will help determine whether block-and-replace therapy affects these responses. Potential alterations in heart rate variability can provide significant insights into the role of cortisol in metabolic regulation, essential for identifying novel therapeutic targets in obesity treatment.



Obesity is one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Achieving long-term weight loss is challenging, as the body counteracts weight loss to preserve energy by increasing appetite and lowering energy expenditure. These physiological defense mechanisms are the main obstacle to successful weight reduction in obese people.

Therefore, identifying the signals that defend body weight during caloric restriction is essential for developing new antiobesity drugs. Corticosteroids mediate the physiological defense to starvation in rodents. Whether cortisol has the same impact on humans is unknown. Therefore, we investigate whether cortisol regulates the physiological adaptions to caloric restriction in humans.


By comparing metabolic parameters and heart rate variability between the two treatments, the aim is to determine whether glucocorticoids mediate the physiological adaptations that occur in response to starvation.


To investigate this matter further, a research study will involve 20 healthy volunteers who receive a placebo or a block-and-replace therapy designed to mimic the physiological rhythm of glucocorticoids. During the study, participants will undergo two identical fasting periods, each associated with a specific treatment. The block-and-replace therapy will involve the suppression of fasting-induced glucocorticoid peaks.


Overall, this study aims to shed light on the intricate relationship between glucocorticoids and the physiological adjustments accompanying fasting, with the ultimate goal of identifying potential targets for novel treatments in the battle against obesity.

Coordinating Center: University of Basel, Switzerland