Estrone in food: a factor influencing the development of obesity?

Eur J Nutr. 1999 Oct;38(5):247-53. doi: 10.1007/s003940050068.


Background: Estrone is a relatively abundant hormone widely distributed in tissues of animal and plant origin. It is a mild estrogen that induces increases in body weight in experimental animals. The relative abundance of estrone esters in animal tissues suggests that it may also be found in foods, from which it may alter the mechanisms of body weight control.

Aim of the study: To measure the total estrone content in food and to determine whether this may affect body weight.

Methods: In the first part of the study, a method was devised for the measurement of total estrone content in food. This was applied to the analysis of estrone content in a variety of food. Finally, hyperlipidic diets (18.6 MJ/kg) with a total estrone content 0.89 +/- 0.21 mumol/kg (control group) and 1.37 +/- 0.13 mumol/kg (laced with estrone fatty esters) were given to rats during 15 days, in order to determine the influence of dietary estrone on the body mass. Zucker lean (Fa/?) rats weighing initially 200-215 g were used. The total estrone (essentially as fatty esters) content of food was investigated by combining a dried methanol extraction with saponification and measurement of the free estrone evolved through radioimmunoassay.

Result: The content of estrone was zero in some vegetables, but significant in fruits, meats, and especially fats, both of plant and animal origin. The application of these analyses to a standard recommended diet for humans may result in intakes of more than 1 mumol of estrone per day, a figure comparable to the estrogen production by women. When rats were exposed to a raised estrone content in a fat-rich diet, they significantly increased their body weights, doubling their rate of growth (1.99 g/day) compared with controls (0.81 g/day), but maintaining their plasma composition and the proportions of lipid, water, and protein in their carcasses.

Conclusion: The widely distributed estrone esters in food and their relatively high concentrations may result in high free hormone intakes in humans. The continued and massive intake of estrone may enhance tissue deposition and lead to obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Mass Index
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Estrone / analysis*
  • Female
  • Food Analysis*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Zucker


  • Estrone