Race differences in obesity and its relationship to the sex hormone milieu

Arlette C. Perry, Lorena Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


A sexual dimorphism exists in which increased abdominal and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) - found in women and marked by low sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and high bioavailable testosterone (BT) - is related to the metabolic risk profile. In men, increased BT is related to decreased abdominal obesity and a decrease in the metabolic risk profile. In women, race differences have been found in androgenic sex steroids including SHBG and BT as well as central fat distribution, creating inherently greater metabolic risk for certain populations. Estrogen and estrogen receptor isoforms play a role in fat deposition and distribution and may influence the changes that occur during the menopausal transition. Androgenic sex steroids serve a mediating role, influencing VAT accumulation and its associated metabolic risk factors while VAT also serves a mediating role influencing the androgenic sex steroid-metabolic risk relationship in women. Furthermore, androgenic sex steroids and VAT may independently contribute to the variance in several metabolic variables associated with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and their antecedent conditions such as the metabolic syndrome. Race has been shown to modify the relationship between androgenic sex steroids and metabolic variables associated with risk for diabetes in Black and White women. Further research is warranted to examine the mechanisms involved in race differences. Total adiposity and central fat distribution in accordance with changes in the hormone and metabolic milieu influence breast cancer risk, which varies by race and menopausal status. These findings have broader implications for the study of health promotion/disease prevention in women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-161
Number of pages11
JournalHormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • Androgenic sex steroids
  • Breast cancer
  • Estrogen
  • Metabolic risk
  • Race differences
  • Visceral adipose tissue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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