Gonadotropin response to insulin and lipid infusion reproduces the reprometabolic syndrome of obesity in eumenorrheic lean women: a randomized crossover trial

Fertil Steril. 2021 Aug;116(2):566-574. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2021.03.005. Epub 2021 Apr 8.


Objective: To study the reprometabolic syndrome in normal-weight, eumenorrheic women by infusing a combination of insulin and lipid. Women with obesity have been shown to have reduced gonadotropins and impaired luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) response to gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).

Design: Randomized crossover.

Setting: Academic medical center.

Participant(s): Fifteen women, median age 32 (interquartile ranged [IQR] 26, 36) years and body mass index 21.9 (IQR 20.2, 22.9) kg/m2 were recruited.

Intervention(s): Early follicular phase, 6-hour infusions of insulin (20-40 mU/m2 per minute) and lipid (Intralipid)-insulin/lipid infusion; or saline infusion (controls). The first 4 hours of each study assessed endogenous gonadotropins; at 4 hours, GnRH (75 ng/kg) bolus was administered and sampling continued until 6 hours.

Main outcome measure(s): Linear mixed model analysis was used to determine differences between insulin/lipid and saline influence on endogenous LH pulse amplitude (primary outcome), mean FSH, and area under the curve (AUC) response to GnRH (secondary outcomes).

Result(s): Twelve women completed both intended studies and an additional 3 women completed only 1 of the 2 studies. LH pulse amplitude, mean FSH, and both AUC responses to GnRH were reduced by insulin/lipid, mean FSH and AUC for LH were at or near statistical significance. LH response to GnRH was significantly reduced when 1 participant with very high LH and antimullerian hormone levels was excluded.

Conclusion(s): Acute infusion of insulin/lipid to eumenorrheic, normal-weight women recapitulated the reprometabolic syndrome of obesity. These findings imply that specific circulating factors in obese women contribute to their subfertility and thus may be amenable to discovery and treatment.

Clinical trial registration number: NCT02653092.

Keywords: FSH; GnRH; Gonadotropins; LH; free fatty acids; hyperinsulinemia.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Emulsions / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Phospholipids / pharmacology*
  • Soybean Oil / pharmacology*
  • Thinness


  • Emulsions
  • Insulin
  • Phospholipids
  • soybean oil, phospholipid emulsion
  • Soybean Oil
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02653092