The insulin resistance in women with hyperandrogenism is partially reversed by antiandrogen treatment: evidence that androgens impair insulin action in women

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1996 Mar;81(3):952-60. doi: 10.1210/jcem.81.3.8772557.


To assess whether androgen excess per se might impair insulin action, insulin sensitivity was measured by a two-step (20 and 80 mU/m2.min) hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp combined with indirect calorimetry and tracer glucose infusion in 43 women (13 obese and 30 nonobese) with normal glucose tolerance and clinical evidence of increased androgen action (hirsutism and/or polycystic ovary syndrome) as well as 12 age- and body mass index-matched healthy controls. Hyperandrogenic women were studied basally and after 3-4 months of antiandrogen treatment with 3 different drugs: spironolactone (n = 23), flutamide (n = 10), or the GnRH agonist buserelin (n = 10). Six women given spironolactone were also reexamined after 1 yr of therapy. At baseline, insulin-mediated glucose uptake was lower in hyperandrogenic women than in controls (by ANOVA, F = 14.3; P < 0.001). Insulin resistance was observed in both ovarian and nonovarian hyperandrogenism, as distinguished by acute GnRH agonist testing. After antiandrogen therapy, insulin action on glucose metabolism significantly increased for both the patients as a whole (F = 7.4; P < 0.01) and each treatment group separately. However, insulin action remained lower than in controls and showed no further improvement in patients reevaluated after I yr of treatment. Increases in both oxidative and nonoxidative glucose metabolism accounted for the improvement in substrate disposal induced by antiandrogen drugs. The increase in the effectiveness of insulin was greater in the lean subjects, whereas the change was small and not statistically significant in the obese women. Response to treatment was more pronounced in women with nonovarian hyperandrogenism, particularly at the low insulin infusion rate. Endogenous glucose production in hyperandrogenic patients was similar to that in healthy women and was unaffected by therapy. In conclusion, antiandrogen treatment partially reversed the peripheral insulin resistance associated with hyperandrogenism regardless of which antiandrogen was used. These data strongly suggest that in women, androgen excess per se contributes to impairment of insulin action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Androgen Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Androgens / blood
  • Buserelin / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Flutamide / therapeutic use
  • Glucose Clamp Technique
  • Humans
  • Hyperandrogenism / drug therapy*
  • Hyperandrogenism / etiology
  • Hyperandrogenism / physiopathology*
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Ovulation
  • Spironolactone / therapeutic use


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Androgens
  • Insulin
  • Spironolactone
  • Flutamide
  • Buserelin