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Hormonal changes in serum in young men during prolonged physical strain

Summary

The endocrine response to severe physical strain including lack of sleep has been investigated in army personnel during a combat course of 5 days' duration. The thyroxine (T4) concentration in serum increased during the first 24 h, and then declined at a rate corresponding to a halflife of 7.6 days and on day 6 reached the lowest level, 55 ng/ml. Triiodothyronine (T3) displayed a similar pattern, although an increase during the first 24 h could not be demonstrated. Within 48 h after the course T4 had returned to normal, whereas the serum level of T3 was significantly below the level before the course (p<0.05). The serum level of TSH was suppressed during the course.

The serum level of prolactin was significantly suppressed and growth hormone was markedly elevated during the course with a significant negative correlation (r=−0.6) between the two. In agreement with a previous report, there was a rapid and sustained suppression of the serum level of testosterone to a mean level of 1.1 ng/ml on day 5.

Short periods of sleep (3–6 h) were shown to be effective in reversing the changes described in this paper, especially for growth hormone, prolactin, and testosterone.

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This study represents a part of a research programme by the Stress Research Group of the Norwegian Joint Medical Services

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Aakvaag, A., Sand, T., Opstad, P.K. et al. Hormonal changes in serum in young men during prolonged physical strain. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 39, 283–291 (1978). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00421452

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00421452

Key words

  • Stress
  • Men
  • Thyroxine
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Prolactin
  • Testosterone