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Does Progesterone Affect Cholesterol?

author image Ruth Coleman
Based in North Carolina, Ruth Coleman has written articles and manuals for more than 25 years. Her writing has appeared in community newspapers and places of employment. Coleman holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Salem College, a Doctor of Medicine from Ross University and is the recipient of numerous academic awards.
Does Progesterone Affect Cholesterol?
Doctor talking to a female patient Photo Credit: undrey/iStock/Getty Images

The hormone progesterone has a role in pregnancy and in the menstrual cycle; it can also be manufactured. The manufactured form is used for various medical conditions, including its use alone or with estrogen to prevent pregnancy, its use along with estrogen in hormone replacement therapy, to control heavy uterine bleeding, to treat the abnormal cessation of menstruation and to treat certain cancers. Progesterone has several effects and does affect the cholesterol level.

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Progesterone is made in the adrenal gland, testes and ovaries from cholesterol. The adrenal gland will use progesterone to make the aldosterone, cortisol, androgen and estrogen hormones. It is secreted by the ovary so the uterus will be prepared in case the ovary becomes fertilized. Just as the ovary makes a small amount of the androgen male hormone, the testes make a small amount of progesterone.

Effects of Progesterone

The progesterone hormone has many effects. It raises the level of insulin in the bloodstream; insulin is a hormone that is secreted by the pancreas to prevent a high blood glucose levels. Progesterone tells the liver to increase its storage of glucose, makes the kidneys lower their reabsorption of sodium, raises the temperature of the body, and lowers the amount of carbon dioxide in the arteries. Progesterone can also stimulate lipoprotein lipase. This is a protein which the cells use to break down triglycerides, resulting in a lower triglyceride level.

Depo-Provera Progesterone and Cholesterol

Synthetic progesterone is manufactured by various pharmaceutical companies. Ellis Levin, M.D., Chief of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the V.A. Medical Center wrote about a research study in “Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics” which demonstrated that the depo-provera progesterone unfortunately lowers the level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol during its use in hormone replacement therapy and does not affect the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is also called the “good cholesterol” because it takes cholesterol from the tissues to the liver to be removed from the body in the bile. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is the “bad cholesterol” which is a risk factor for coronary artery disease.

Etonogestrel, Norethindrone and Cholesterol

According to the “Drug Monograph,” etonogestrel progesterone raises the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level and lowers the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, but may increase the level of triglycerides. Etonogestrel is used to prevent pregnancy for a woman who wants to do so for up to three years. Norethindrone, on the other hand, may have a negative effect on the cholesterol level; that is, it may increase the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level and is, therefore, recommended to be used with caution in any woman who has a high cholesterol level. It is also used to prevent pregnancy and to treat abnormal gynecological conditions.

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  • Access Medicine: Drug Monograph
  • “Basic & Clinical Pharmacology”; Bertram Katzung, M.D., Ph.D., Susan Masters, Ph.D. et al.; 2009
  • “Endocrine Physiology”; Patricia Molina, M.D., Ph.D.; 2010
  • “Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics”; Laurence Brunton, Ph.D.; 2011
  • Progestin
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