Sex-related differences in the insulin resistance syndrome

Curr Hypertens Rep. 2001 Apr;3(2):124-8. doi: 10.1007/s11906-001-0024-8.


In the insulin resistance (IR) syndrome, sex-specific differences have been reported. First, hypertension more often correlates with hyperinsulinemia in women than in men with the IR syndrome. In addition, salt sensitivity of blood pressure appears to be independent of the activity of the renin-angiotensin system in women, whereas in men there is a strong correlation between the two variables. Secondly, the dyslipidemia found in women with the IR syndrome is characterized by less postprandial plasma insulin, triglycerides, and fatty acid response to a standardized meal. However, this sex difference in lipids disappears after correction for visceral fat mass. Fat physiology and biochemistry differ between the two sexes. In women, adipose cells express less glucocorticoid receptors and less 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. In women visceral fat accumulation appears to be a constant feature of the IR syndrome but in men the syndrome can be present without central obesity. Lastly, during the reproductive years of women, the IR syndrome, such as in pre-eclampsia, may cause fetal growth retardation that has been proposed together with maternal malnutrition to be at the origin of the increased risk for impaired glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and hypertension in adult life. This gives yet another dimension to this disease in women since in essence they may ultimately transmit this syndrome to both sexes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Causality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Sex Factors*
  • Syndrome