Androgens and abdominal obesity

Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Oct;12(3):441-51. doi: 10.1016/s0950-351x(98)80191-2.


Central or visceral obesity is recognized as a main risk factor for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. The co-existence of visceral obesity, increased blood lipid levels, hypertension and impaired glucose tolerance defines the metabolic syndrome that today is widely recognized as one of the prime factors behind cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Endocrine disorders such as insulinoma, hypothyroidism and hypercortisolism are known to cause obesity. However, it is only hypercortisolism that is associated with increased abdominal fat accumulation. Recently, new findings have shed light on subtle endocrinopathies that are prevalent in individuals presenting with the metabolic syndrome. Such derangements are of borderline character and often fall within the normal reference range. Intervention studies demonstrate that correction of relative hypogonadism in men with visceral obesity and other manifestations of the metabolic syndrome seem to decrease the abdominal fat mass and reverse the glucose intolerance, as well as lipoprotein abnormalities in the serum. Further analysis of the underlying mechanism has also disclosed a regulatory role for testosterone in counteracting visceral fat accumulation. Longitudinal epidemiological data demonstrates that relatively low testosterone levels are a risk factor for development of visceral obesity. The primary event that triggers the initial development of visceral obesity is not known, but it seems plausible that increased activity in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis can be of major importance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / physiopathology*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / physiopathology*
  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Androgens / physiology
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Female
  • Human Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Progesterone / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Progesterone
  • Hydrocortisone