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.
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