Cortisol is produced and secreted by the adrenal glands. Production of the hormone is regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain and by the pituitary gland. Most cortisol in the blood is bound to a protein, only a small percentage is "free" and biologically active. Cortisol is a hormone that plays a role in the metabolism of proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates among other functions. Normally, the level of cortisol in the blood rises and falls in a "diurnal variation" pattern, increasing early in the morning, then declining throughout the day and reaching its lowest level about midnight.
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