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Can J Appl Physiol. 2003 Feb;28(1):64-78.

Estradiol effects on the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 axis in amenorrheic athletes.

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  • 1School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA.


Disruption of the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 (GH/IGF-1) axis has been reported and studied in menopause, hypothalamic amenorrhea, and anorexia nervosa, but not in weight-stable amenorrheic athletes. We investigated the effects of short-term transdermal estradiol on basal and exercise-stimulated serum GH, IGF-1, and associated binding proteins (IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-3) in seven weight-stable female amenorrheic athletes with percentage body fats greater that 12%. Each subject received a 72 h placebo patch followed by 144 h of transdermal estradiol. Serum samples for GH, IGF-1, IGFBP-1, and IGFBP-3 were obtained at baseline (t1), 72 hr (t2), 144 hr (t3), and during three 90-minute trials of aerobic exercise. Basal, and exercise GH, IGF-1, and IGFBP-1 were not different between trials. Baseline IGFBP-3 decreased from t1 to t2 (p = 0.04) and serum free fatty acids increased from t1 to t2, and t1 to t3 (p = 0.04, and 0.02 respectively). These findings differ from postmenopausal women, and women having weightloss-associated amenorrhea, suggesting that estrogen, exercise, and nutritional deficiencies may have independent effects on the GH/IGF-1 axis.

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