Sex hormones, appetite and eating behaviour in women

Maturitas. 2012 Mar;71(3):248-56. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.12.016. Epub 2012 Jan 26.


Sex hormones play essential roles in the regulation of appetite, eating behaviour and energy metabolism and have been implicated in several major clinical disorders in women. Estrogen inhibits food intake, whereas progesterone and testosterone may stimulate appetite. This review describes recent findings concerning interactions between sex hormones and neuroendocrinological mechanisms in the control of appetite and eating in women. Furthermore, we are gaining insights into the roles played by sex hormones in the development of eating disorders and obesity. For instance, androgens may promote bulimia by stimulating appetite and reducing impulse control, a proposal supported by the observation that antiandrogenic treatment attenuates bulimic behaviour. Androgens are also involved in the pathophysiology of abdominal obesity in women. On the other hand, hormone replacement therapy with estrogen counteracts the weight gain and accumulation of abdominal fat associated with the menopausal transition. In conclusion, sex hormones and/or agents that exhibit similar activities may provide novel strategies for the treatment of eating disorders and android obesity, two of the most serious health problems for women today.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / drug effects
  • Adiposity / physiology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / drug therapy
  • Anorexia Nervosa / physiopathology
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Appetite / physiology*
  • Bulimia Nervosa / drug therapy
  • Bulimia Nervosa / physiopathology
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / pharmacology
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / pharmacology
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Lactation / drug effects
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Menopause / drug effects
  • Menopause / physiology
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones