Horm Metab Res 2000; 32(11/12): 526-536
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-978681

© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

Sex Steroid Hormones, Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin, and Obesity in Men and Women

A. Tchernof, J.-P. Després
  • Molecular Endocrinology Laboratory and Lipid Research Center, Laval University Medical Research Center, Québec, Canada
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Publication History



Publication Date:
19 April 2007 (online)

Sex steroid hormones in both males and females have been closely related to the regulation of adiposity, either through direct or indirect physiological mechanisms. Evidence also suggests a direct relationship between sex hormones and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In the present review article, we will discuss recent studies that have examined the complex interrelationships between sex hormones, SHBG, obesity and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Male obesity and excess abdominal adipose tissue accumulation is associated with reductions in gonadal androgen and low adrenal C19 steroid concentrations. Reduced C19 steroids are also related to an altered metabolic risk factor profile including glucose intolerance and an atherogenic dyslipidemic state. However, the concomitant visceral obese state appears as a major correlate in these associations. In women, menopause-induced estrogen deficiency and increased androgenicity are associated with increased abdominal obesity and with the concomitant alterations in the metabolic risk profile. The accelerated accretion of adipose tissue in the intra-abdominal region coincident with the onset of menopause may explain part of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. In both men and women, plasma levels of sex hormone-binding globulin are strong correlates of obesity and risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and more importantly, the relationships between low SHBG and altered plasma lipid levels appear to be independent from the concomitant increased levels of visceral adipose tissue. SHBG concentration may, therefore, represent the most important and reliable marker of the sex hormone profile in the examination of the complex interrelation of sex steroid hormones, obesity, and cardiovascular disease risk.