Interrelations between sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), plasma lipoproteins and cardiovascular risk

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1995 Jun;53(1-6):567-72. doi: 10.1016/0960-0760(95)00102-6.


The incidence of coronary artery disease is significantly higher in men than in women, at least until menopause. This gender difference could be explained by the action of sex steroids on the lipoprotein profile. In prepubertal children, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels are similar between sexes, while adult men have generally lower HDL cholesterol and higher triglyceride levels than premenopausal adult women. Most cross-sectional studies have reported that sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and testosterone levels correlate positively with HDL cholesterol levels between sexes. Thus SHBG by modulating the balance in the biodisposal of testosterone and estradiol, might have a profound effect on the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, adjustment for body weight and body fat distribution weakens the association between SHBG, testosterone and HDL cholesterol. The negative correlation of fasting insulin with SHBG and HDL cholesterol levels in both sexes, and some evidence that insulin is an inhibitor of SHBG production in vitro, has suggested that hyperinsulinism might negatively regulate SHBG and HDL levels. It remains to be determined whether the inverse relationship between SHBG and insulin levels is coincidental or has a causal effect on the increase of atherosclerosis. Decreased SHBG has been shown to be predictive of the incidence of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in women but not in men, and of subsequent development of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality in postmenopausal women. SHBG is an index of androgenism in women and of insulin-resistance in both sexes, and might be useful in epidemiological studies of cardiovascular risk. However, in men, SHBG is not predictive of the occurrence of cardiovascular disease. Whether SHBG might have an intrinsic protective effect on the arterial wall through SHBG-receptors is still highly speculative.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Diet
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipoproteins / blood*
  • Male
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / metabolism*
  • Smoking
  • Thyroid Hormones / metabolism


  • Estrogens
  • Lipoproteins
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Progesterone
  • Hydrocortisone