Males have higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) than premenopausal females. Gonadal steroids are probably involved in the gender difference in CVD, but previous results have been conflicting. We investigated the associations between CVD risk factors and sex hormones in a cross-sectional designed study of 508 healthy males, aged 41 to 72 years. We determined total testosterone (T), sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), free androgen index (FAI), and estradiol (E2) and studied their relationship to body fat mass (BF), blood pressure (BP), aortic compliance, left ventricular mass (LVM), and plasma lipids (total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein [HDL], low-density lipoprotein [LDL], very--low-density lipoprotein [VLDL], and triglycerides). In quartile analyses after adjustment for confounders (age, body mass index [BMI], alcohol consumption, and smoking), SHBG and E2 were positively associated with HDL, while FAI was negatively associated with HDL. T and SHBG were negatively associated with VLDL and triglycerides, while FAI was positively associated with VLDL and triglycerides. T and SHBG were negatively associated with BMI and BF, while FAI and E2 were positively associated with BMI and BF. E2 was negatively associated with LVM. No hormone varied with total cholesterol, LDL, BP, and aortic compliance in the adjusted analyses. In multiple regression analyses, SHBG was the main predictive variable of HDL, VLDL, and triglycerides explaining 12%, 17%, and 17% of the variation, respectively. No other hormones were selected as predictive variables for VLDL and triglycerides, but E2, T, and FAI were selected in the HDL regression, explaining 3%, 2%, and less than 1%, respectively. Our regression analyses illustrate the diverging results when investigating associations between gonadal steroids and lipids with and without SHBG adjustment. Atherogenic lipid profile in males is associated with low SHBG, low T levels, and a high FAI. Males with high E2 levels may have a less atherogenic lipid profile and lower LVM. SHBG is a key hormone in the association between sex hormones and plasma lipids. We suggest that conflicting results of cross-sectional and intervention studies of sex hormones and lipids, in part, may be explained by interindividual differences or changes in SHBG. Thus, further studies on the potential role of SHBG in the development of ischemic heart disease (IHD) should be performed.
Copyright 2001 by W.B. Saunders Company