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Horm Behav. 2014 Jun;66(1):104-19. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2014.03.011. Epub 2014 Mar 28.

Our stolen figures: the interface of sexual differentiation, endocrine disruptors, maternal programming, and energy balance.

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Lehigh University, Department of Biological Sciences, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA. Electronic address:
Lehigh University, Department of Biological Sciences, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA.
Susquehanna University, Department of Biological Sciences, Selinsgrove, PA 17870, USA.


This article is part of a Special Issue "Energy Balance". The prevalence of adult obesity has risen markedly in the last quarter of the 20th century and has not been reversed in this century. Less well known is the fact that obesity prevalence has risen in domestic, laboratory, and feral animals, suggesting that all of these species have been exposed to obesogenic factors present in the environment. This review emphasizes interactions among three biological processes known to influence energy balance: Sexual differentiation, endocrine disruption, and maternal programming. Sexual dimorphisms include differences between males and females in body weight, adiposity, adipose tissue distribution, ingestive behavior, and the underlying neural circuits. These sexual dimorphisms are controlled by sex chromosomes, hormones that masculinize or feminize adult body weight during perinatal development, and hormones that act during later periods of development, such as puberty. Endocrine disruptors are natural and synthetic molecules that attenuate or block normal hormonal action during these same developmental periods. A growing body of research documents effects of endocrine disruptors on the differentiation of adipocytes and the central nervous system circuits that control food intake, energy expenditure, and adipose tissue storage. In parallel, interest has grown in epigenetic influences, including maternal programming, the process by which the mother's experience has permanent effects on energy-balancing traits in the offspring. This review highlights the points at which maternal programming, sexual differentiation, and endocrine disruption might dovetail to influence global changes in energy balancing traits.


Adiposity; Bisphenol A; Diethylstilbestrol; Food intake; Ingestive behavior; Obesity

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