Testosterone and Visceral Fat in Midlife Women: The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) Fat Patterning Study

Authors

  • Imke Janssen,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Preventive Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA
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  • Lynda H. Powell,

    1. Department of Preventive Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA
    2. Department of Medicine, Behavioral Sciences, and Pharmacology, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA
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  • Rasa Kazlauskaite,

    1. Department of Preventive Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA
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  • Sheila A. Dugan

    1. Department of Preventive Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA
    2. Department of Neurosurgery, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA
    3. Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA
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(Imke_Janssen@rush.edu)

Abstract

Visceral fat (VF) increases with the menopause and is an independent predictor of the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women. Little is known about how hormonal changes during the menopausal transition are related to the increase in VF. We aimed to determine the relationship between bioavailable testosterone and VF in middle-aged women at various stages of the menopausal transition and whether this relationship is independent of age and other CVD risk factors. The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) is a longitudinal, community-based study. This report uses baseline data from a population-based longitudinal ancillary study at the Chicago site to examine the cross-sectional relationship between testosterone and computed tomography (CT)–assessed VF in women at different stages of the menopausal transition. Included are 359 women (47.2% black), aged 42–60 years, who were randomly selected from a complete community census in which a 72% participation rate was achieved. In multivariate models, bioavailable testosterone was associated with VF independent of age, race, percent total body fat, and other cardiovascular risk factors. Bioavailable testosterone was a stronger predictor than estradiol and was interchangeable in its strength of association with sex hormone–binding globulin (SHBG). As bioavailable testosterone was associated with VF even after adjusting for insulin resistance, this suggests that it plays an important role in regional fat distribution. Our findings may have direct implications in explaining the effect of menopause-related testosterone predominance on VF accumulation and subsequent cardiovascular risk.

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