Genetic Basis for Sex Differences in Obesity and Lipid Metabolism

Annu Rev Nutr. 2017 Aug 21;37:225-245. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064827. Epub 2017 Jun 19.


Men and women exhibit significant differences in obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. To provide better diagnosis and treatment for both sexes, it is important to identify factors that underlie the observed sex differences. Traditionally, sex differences have been attributed to the differential effects of male and female gonadal secretions (commonly referred to as sex hormones), which substantially influence many aspects of metabolism and related diseases. Less appreciated as a contributor to sex differences are the fundamental genetic differences between males and females, which are ultimately determined by the presence of an XX or XY sex chromosome complement. Here, we review the mechanisms by which gonadal hormones and sex chromosome complement each contribute to lipid metabolism and associated diseases, and the current approaches that are used to study them. We focus particularly on genetic approaches including genome-wide association studies in humans and mice, -omics and systems genetics approaches, and unique experimental mouse models that allow distinction between gonadal and sex chromosome effects.

Keywords: adipose tissue; glucose metabolism; gonadal hormones; metabolic syndrome; microbiome; sex chromosome complement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gonadal Hormones*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Chromosomes*
  • Sex Factors


  • Gonadal Hormones