High-calorie glucose-rich food attenuates neuroglycopenic symptoms in patients with Addison's disease

Johanna Klement*, Christian Hubold, Hannah Cords, Kerstin M. Oltmanns, Manfred Hallschmid, Jan Born, Hendrik Lehnert, Achim Peters

*Corresponding author for this work
16 Citations (Scopus)


Context/Objective: Patients with Addison's disease often suffer from fatigue, faintness, lack of concentration, and memory deficits, i.e. symptoms reminiscent of those of neuroglycopenia. Suspecting that a lack of central nervous glucose contributes to these symptoms, we examined whether they can be attenuated by the intake of palatable food rich in glucose ("comfort food") in these patients and, furthermore, whether comfort food reduces hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis activity as observed in animal studies. Design/Setting/Patients/Outcome: Ten Addison patients with primary adrenal insufficiency and acutely discontinued cortisol substitution and 10 matched healthy controls each participated in two experimental sessions in which they were offered a free-choice high-calorie buffet (comfort food) and green salad, respectively, after a mental stress test. Neuroglycopenic and autonomic symptoms, cognitive function (short-term memory, attention), and hormones of the sympathoadrenal system (ACTH, cortisol, catecholamines) were assessed throughout the sessions. Results: Scores of neuroglycopenic symptoms were persistently higher in Addison patients than in controls and were improved by comfort food in comparison to salad (P < 0.04), whereas control subjects did not show such changes. Attention was generally reduced in patients as compared to controls (P < 0.05) and was slightly improved by comfort food, as was memory (each P < 0.07). Sympathoadrenal hormone concentrations remained unaltered. Conclusions: High-calorie comfort food reduces symptoms of neuroglycopenia in Addison patients, suggesting that Addison's disease is associated with a deficit in cerebral energy supply that can partly be alleviated by intake of palatable food. It will be important to investigate whether additional oral glucose supply may be helpful in improving patients' well-being.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)522-528
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2010


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