The sexually dimorphic role of androgens in human metabolic disease

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Female androgen excess and male androgen deficiency manifest with an overlapping adverse metabolic phenotype, including abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, non alcoholic fatty liver disease and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Here we review the impact of androgens on metabolic target tissues in an attempt to unravel the complex mechanistic
links with metabolic dysfunction; we also evaluate clinical studies examining the associations between metabolic disease and disorders of androgen metabolism in men and women. We conceptualise that an equilibrium between androgen effects on adipose tissue and skeletal muscle underpins the metabolic phenotype observed in female androgen excess and male androgen deficiency. Androgens induce adipose tissue dysfunction, with effects on lipid metabolism, insulin resistance and fat mass expansion, while anabolic effects on skeletal muscle may confer metabolic benefits. We hypothesise that serum androgen concentrations observed in female androgen excess and male hypogonadism are metabolically disadvantageous, promoting adipose and liver lipid accumulation, central fat mass expansion and insulin resistance.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R125-R143
JournalEuropean Journal of Endocrinology
Early online date31 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • androgen , metabolic disease , male hypogonadism , polycystic ovary syndrome