Oral progesterone and estrogen/progestogen therapy. Effects of natural and synthetic hormones on subfractions of HDL cholesterol and liver proteins

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand Suppl. 1984;127:1-37. doi: 10.3109/00016348409157016.


The pharmacokinetics of progesterone after oral administration were investigated. After a single dose of 100 mg, serum concentrations of progesterone around 50-60 nM and of 20 alpha-hydroxy-4-pregnene-3-one around 5-6 nM were recorded within 1-4 hours and elevated levels persisted for 8-12 hours. There were only minor changes in 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone concentrations and serum levels of androstenedione and cortisol were unaffected. A significant conversion of circulating progesterone into deoxy-corticosterone was demonstrated. During clinical treatment with oral progesterone the individual serum concentrations of this potent mineralocorticoid were closely correlated to the progesterone concentrations. This observation could be important as regards the etiology of certain clinical disorders characterized by fluid retention. According to competitive binding analyses there was no evidence that progesterone or medroxyprogesterone acetate could cause significant displacement of cortisol from corticosteroid-binding globulin during clinical treatment. The effects of natural and synthetic hormones upon subfractions of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and liver proteins were followed in postmenopausal women during replacement therapy with various estrogen-progestogen combinations. The total serum cholesterol level was significantly reduced during treatment with all estrogen regimens. The concentrations of HDL cholesterol, HDL2 cholesterol, apolipoprotein A I and A II were increased in a dose-dependent pattern during unopposed estrogen therapy. The potency of 10 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol was estimated to be equivalent to 3-4 mg of estradiol valerate. Estrogen effects were significantly reversed by levonorgestrel 250 micrograms and also by medroxyprogesterone acetate 10 mg. During treatment with natural progesterone, no changes were recorded in HDL cholesterol or its subfractions. As compared with the lipoproteins, pregnancy zone protein and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) were found to be more sensitive to the alkylated than to the non-alkylated estrogen. Both levonorgestrel and medroxyprogesterone acetate clearly reduced SHBG levels after 3 months, whereas micronized progesterone had no such effect. While tamoxifen counteracted the therapeutic and metabolic effects of estrogen the sequential addition of estriol had no apparent influence. Unopposed estrogen treatment enhanced liver lecithin synthesis along pathway I, i.e. reduced the amount of stearic acid and increased the amount of palmitic acid. The effects were dose-dependent and no qualitative differences between ethinyl estradiol and estradiol valerate were recorded.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Estradiol Congeners / administration & dosage
  • Estrogen Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Estrogens / administration & dosage*
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Lipoproteins / blood
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Menopause
  • Middle Aged
  • Phosphatidylcholines / blood
  • Progesterone / administration & dosage*
  • Progesterone / adverse effects
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Progestins / pharmacology
  • Protein Binding / drug effects
  • Proteins / metabolism*


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Estradiol Congeners
  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Estrogens
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Progestins
  • Proteins
  • Progesterone