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The influence of glycyrrhetinic acid on plasma cortisol and cortisone in healthy young volunteers.


MacKenzie MA, Hoefnagels WH, Jansen RW




J Clin Endocrinol Metab


Based on studies in laboratory animals and on measurements of the urinary metabolites (allo)tetrahydrocortisol and tetrahydrocortisone in human volunteers it has been claimed that liquorice-induced mineralocorticoid excess is caused by a unique defect in the conversion of cortisol to cortisone. To further evaluate this hypothesis we have investigated the influence of glycyrrhetinic acid (GA), the mineralocorticoid-active constituent of liquorice, on plasma cortisol and cortisone in 10 healthy young normotensive volunteers. Pure GA (500 mg/day), administered orally from days 3-10 of the study, exerted pronounced mineralocorticoid activity. Ingestion of GA resulted in an elevated urinary excretion of free cortisol and virtually unchanged plasma cortisol levels in the presence of markedly decreased levels of both plasma cortisone and urinary free cortisone. These results provide direct clinical support for the hypothesis that GA induces an inhibition of the activity of 11 beta-dehydrogenase, resulting in a blockade in the conversion of cortisol to cortisone.

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