Poster Topical Area: Nutritional Epidemiology

Location: Hall D

Poster Board Number: 748

P20-009 - Associations between hair cortisol concentration, anthropometric measures, and macronutrient intakes among first-year college students

Sunday, Jun 10
8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Objective: To examine cross-sectional associations between hair cortisol concentrations, as a measure of long-term chronic stress, and anthropometric measures, as well as macronutrient intake among first-year college students.

Methods: Macronutrient intake was obtained using the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) among participants in the UMass Healthy Campus Study (n= 215). Height, weight, and waist circumference (WC) were taken by trained researchers. Hair samples were collected from the posterior vertex area of the scalp. Hair cortisol was extracted by standard procedures and cortisol concentrations were measured using enzyme immunoassay (EIA) (n= 140 women and n= 52 men, aged 18.4 ± 0.5 years). Linear regression was used to examine associations between continuous hair cortisol concentrations and anthropometric measures, as well as macronutrient intake. Data was transformed using natural logarithm and all models were adjusted for age, sex, race, hair length, hair washing frequency, steroid medication use, and total energy intake (only used in the macronutrient models).

Results: Most participants were in the normal body composition range as measured by mean BMI= 23.8 ± 4.2 kg/m2 (women= 23.4 ± 4.2 kg/m2, men= 24.8 ± 4.1 kg/m2), and mean WC= 77.5 ± 9.0 cm for women and 84.1 ± 10.5 cm for men. Mean intake of total protein (17.3%), carbohydrates (51.0%) and total fat (31.7%) were within recommended ranges for this age group. Higher hair cortisol concentrations were associated with higher BMI and WC (p-value <0.05). For macronutrients, higher hair cortisol levels were positively associated with intakes for total protein (p-value <0.05) in the unadjusted model; no associations were seen for carbohydrate or fat intakes. After adjusting for covariates, no statistically significant differences were seen.

Conclusion: This is the first study to examine hair cortisol, as an objective measure of stress, and its association with macronutrient intake. We found a positive association between elevated hair cortisol and BMI and WC; however, there was no association seen with protein, carbohydrate or fat intake among first-year college students. Future research should examine the associations between macronutrient components of diet quality, such as added sugar, and hair cortisol.

Funding Source: UMass Amherst Internal Grant

CoAuthors: Deniz Azarmanesh – University of Massachusetts Amherst; Cara Leonard – University of Massachusetts Amherst; Dana Fritz – University of Massachusetts Amherst; Lisa Troy – University of Massachusetts Amherst

Kiara Y. Amaro-Rivera

Graduate Student
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, Massachusetts