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Brain Res. 2010 Sep 2;1350:77-85. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.04.056. Epub 2010 May 23.

Metabolic impact of sex hormones on obesity.

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Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27412, USA.


Obesity and its associated health disorders and costs are increasing. Men and post-menopausal women have greater risk of developing complications of obesity than younger women. Within the brain, the hypothalamus is an important regulator of energy homeostasis. Two of its sub-areas, the ventrolateral portion of the ventral medial nucleus (VL VMN) and the arcuate (ARC) respond to hormones and other signals to control energy intake and expenditure. When large lesions are made in the hypothalamus which includes both the VL VMN and the ARC, animals eat more, have reduced energy expenditure, and become obese. The ARC and the VL VMN, in addition to other regions in the hypothalamus, have been demonstrated to contain estrogen receptors. There are two estrogen receptors, estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) and estrogen receptor beta (ERbeta). We and others have previously demonstrated that activation of ERalpha by estrogens reduces food intake and increases body weight. This review focuses on the relative contribution of activation of ERalpha by estrogens in the ARC and the VL VMN in the regulation of food intake and body weight. Additionally, estrogen receptors have been found in many peripheral tissues including adipose tissue. Estrogens are thought to have direct effects on adipose tissue and estrogens may provide anti-inflammatory properties both in the periphery and the in the central nervous system (CNS) which may protect women from diseases associated with inflammation. Understanding the mechanisms by which estrogens regulate body weight and inflammation will assist in determining potential therapeutic agents for menopausal women to decrease the propensity of diseases associated with obesity.

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