Insulin Resistance & Estrogen

Female doctor explaining diagnosis to her patient.
Talk to your doctor. (Image: nensuria/iStock/GettyImages)

A 2015 study in the Journal of Diabetes Research show that loss of circulating estrogen can start rapid changes in the body's metabolism, fat distribution and insulin resistance.

Functions of Estrogen

Of all the essential functions estrogen performs in the body, one of the most critical is optimizing the action of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Therefore, low estrogen levels (like during menopause) may lead to increased insulin resistance or impaired insulin action.

According to the Mayo Clinic, insulin resistance is associated with metabolic syndrome; a medical condition that can increase the risk of health problems like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Insulin resistance due to low estrogen levels can adversely affect health, and a medical professional may be the best guide for learning how to manage and treat this condition.

Metabolic Syndrome and Heart Disease

Metabolic syndrome affects about 35 percent of U.S. adults, according to a study published in the May 2015 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

A 2017 study in the journal Translational Research explains that metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that can include elevated blood sugar levels, a symptom of both prediabetes and type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Elevated blood sugar has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure and elevated triglyceride levels (a risk factor for heart disease).

However, according to a 2013 article from the National Institute of Oncology, Surgical and Molecular Tumor Pathology Centre, Hungary the relationship between metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and estrogen is complex, and more research is needed to clarify the interplay of these hormones in health and disease.

Estrogen and Insulin Resistance

A review of animal and human studies published in the March 2016 Journal of Diabetes Research discussed the known association between estrogen and insulin action.

Besides impairing insulin action, low estrogen levels may also hinder the insulin production from the pancreas, suggest the study authors. Insufficient insulin causes the liver to secrete excess glucose, raising blood sugar levels. According to a 2007 study in Endocrine Reviews, estrogen deficiency may also cause inflammation, which can also impair insulin action.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Estrogen can be created synthetically, and is used in contraceptive drugs and for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), an approved treatment for menopause and osteoporosis. HRT has been investigated as a possible treatment to improve insulin action and negate the consequences of insulin resistance.

According to a 2016 study in the Macedonian Journal of Medical Science, HRT could help treat insulin resistance due to low estrogen levels, although more research is needed before HRT can be said to effectively treat insulin resistance in women with low estrogen levels.

Signs of Insulin Resistance

According to Diabetes.co.uk, the signs of insulin resistance can include excessive fatigue, hunger, difficulty concentrating and weight gain. Low estrogen levels may be associated with insulin resistance, which is also more likely to occur if you have gained excess weight or tend to carry fat in the belly area.

Diabetes.co.uk also states that insulin resistance can be improved by doing things like eating less carbohydrates, reducing calories, getting more exercise, reducing stress or even having weight loss surgery.

If you are postmenopausal, suspect you have low estrogen levels, or experience the symptoms of elevated blood sugar, speak with a doctor to be sure.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2018 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.