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Metabolism. 2008 Jun;57(6):838-44. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2008.01.029.

Does insulin resistance, visceral adiposity, or a sex hormone alteration underlie the metabolic syndrome? Studies in women.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY 10019, USA.


Insulin resistance, obesity, and a sex hormone alteration have each been suggested as the underlying link for the constellation of risk factors for myocardial infarction (MI) commonly referred to as the metabolic syndrome or the insulin resistance syndrome. In an attempt to identify in women which of these variables is the most likely link, insulin, adiposity variables, sex hormones, and risk factors for MI were measured and their relationships analyzed statistically in 58 premenopausal and 20 postmenopausal healthy women. On controlling for age, visceral adipose tissue (VAT) correlated more strongly with risk factors for MI, insulin, and free testosterone (FT) than did total adipose tissue or subcutaneous adipose tissue. VAT, therefore, was used as the adiposity variable for further data analysis. Waist circumference was a better surrogate of VAT than was waist-hip ratio, which was a poor surrogate of VAT. VAT correlated positively with insulin, FT, triglyceride, and glucose, and negatively with high-density lipoprotein and sex hormone-binding globulin. On controlling for age, FT and insulin correlated with risk factors for MI and with each other, but on controlling for age and VAT, all of their correlations lost statistical significance except for FT-triglyceride and FT-insulin in the postmenopausal women. In conclusion, VAT accumulation in women, independently of other measures of adiposity, may largely explain the correlations of insulin, obesity, and sex hormones with risk factors for MI and may be the immediate underlying factor that links risk factors for MI to form the metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance, which has been generally accepted to be the underlying factor, may be a component of the syndrome rather than its underlying link. We hypothesize that in women FT may effect preferential VAT accumulation and induce insulin resistance directly, as well as via VAT accumulation, so that a sex hormone alteration may underlie VAT accumulation and thus ultimately underlie the metabolic syndrome (with insulin resistance as a component).

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