Serum Follicle-Stimulating Hormone and 5-Year Change in Adiposity in Healthy Postmenopausal Women

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2022 Jul 14;107(8):e3455-e3462. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgac238.


Context: Evidence from animal studies suggests that the gradual rise in follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) during reproductive senescence may contribute to the change in adiposity distribution characteristic of menopause. The potential independent role the interrelationships of FSH and estradiol (E2) may play in postmenopausal adiposity changes are not well studied.

Objective: Our objective was to evaluate the associations of FSH and dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA)-derived adiposity measures, with consideration of estradiol and postmenopausal hormone therapy use.

Methods: In a sample of 667 postmenopausal women from the Women's Health Initiative Buffalo OsteoPerio Ancillary Study, we studied the associations of serum FSH and E2 levels with dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA)-derived adiposity measures via cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses (5-year follow-up).

Results: In cross-sectional analyses, FSH levels were inversely associated with all measures of adiposity in models adjusted for age, years since menopause, smoking status, pack-years, and hormone therapy (HT) use; these associations were not influenced by adjustment for serum E2. In longitudinal analyses, the subset of women who discontinued HT over follow-up (n = 242) experienced the largest increase in FSH (+33.9 mIU/mL) and decrease in E2 (-44.3 pg/mL) and gains in all adiposity measures in unadjusted analyses. In adjusted analyses, an increase in FSH was associated with a gain in percentage of total body fat, total body fat mass, and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT).

Conclusion: While cross-sectional findings suggest that FSH is inversely associated with adiposity, our longitudinal findings suggest that greater increases in FSH were associated with greater increases in percentage of total body fat, total body fat mass, and SAT. Future studies are needed to provide additional insight into FSH-adiposity mechanisms in larger samples.

Keywords: adiposity; body composition; endogenous hhormones; estradiol; follicle stimulating hormone (FSH); women’s Health initiative (WHI).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Estradiol
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone* / blood
  • Humans
  • Menopause
  • Postmenopause*


  • Estradiol
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone