Obesity and sex steroid changes across puberty: evidence for marked hyperandrogenemia in pre- and early pubertal obese girls

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Feb;92(2):430-6. doi: 10.1210/jc.2006-2002. Epub 2006 Nov 21.


Context: Peripubertal obesity is associated with abnormal sex steroid concentrations, but the timing of onset and degree of these abnormalities remain unclear.

Objective: The objective of the study was to assess the degree of hyperandrogenemia across puberty in obese girls and assess overnight sex steroid changes in Tanner stage 1-3 girls.

Design: This was a cross-sectional analysis.

Setting: The study was conducted at general clinical research centers.

Subjects: Thirty normal-weight (body mass index for age < 85%) and 74 obese (body mass index for age >or= 95%) peripubertal girls.

Intervention: Blood samples (circa 0500-0700 h) were taken while fasting. Samples from the preceding evening (circa 2300 h) were obtained in 23 Tanner 1-3 girls.

Main outcome measures: Hormone concentrations stratified by Tanner stage were measured.

Results: Compared with normal-weight girls, mean free testosterone (T) was elevated 2- to 9-fold across puberty in obese girls, whereas fasting insulin was 3-fold elevated in obese Tanner 1-3 girls (P < 0.05). Mean LH was lower in obese Tanner 1 and 2 girls (P < 0.05) but not in more mature girls. In a subgroup of normal-weight Tanner 1-3 girls (n = 17), mean progesterone (P) and T increased overnight 2.3- and 2.4-fold, respectively (P <or= 0.001). In obese Tanner 1-3 girls (n = 6), evening P and T were elevated, and both tended to increase overnight [mean 1.4- and 1.6-fold, respectively (P = 0.06)].

Conclusions: Peripubertal obesity is associated with hyperandrogenemia and hyperinsulinemia throughout puberty, being especially marked shortly before and during early puberty. P and T concentrations in normal-weight Tanner 1-3 girls increase overnight, with similar but less evident changes in obese girls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hyperandrogenism / metabolism*
  • Hyperandrogenism / physiopathology
  • Hyperinsulinism / metabolism
  • Hyperinsulinism / physiopathology
  • Insulin / blood
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Puberty / blood*
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Insulin
  • Testosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Hydrocortisone

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