Review| Volume 60, ISSUE 1, P10-18, May 20, 2008

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Metabolic syndrome after menopause and the role of hormones



      The purpose of this review is to focus on the importance of metabolic syndrome (MBS) and its increased prevalence in postmenopausal (PM) women. Also the role of hormonal therapy in PM women with MBS will be discussed.


      Review of the relevant literature and results from recent clinical trials.


      MBS may occur in 40% of PM women and is largely determined by overweight status and obesity. Weight gain, particularly an increase in central fat mass increases in PM women, beginning a few years prior to menopause. Hormonal Therapy (HT) in normal PM women, generally decreases abdominal fat, but the effect of transdermal estrogen is preferable to oral therapy in this regard. In women with MBS, oral therapy was found to increase leptin and the leptin/adiponectin ratio, while transdermal therapy showed no changes. HT has been found to improve insulin resistance in PM women, although the data are mixed. In women with MBS, oral therapy was found to worsen parameters of insulin resistance, while transdermal therapy had minimal effects overall. Women with MBS have elevations in several inflammation and coagulation factors. Both oral and transdermal HT reduce inflammation markers except for levels of CRP and MMP-9, which increase with oral therapy, but are unaffected by the transdermal route. Oral estrogen has a small pro-coagulant effect, not observed with transdermal therapy, in both normal PM women and those with MBS. The beneficial effects of HT on lipids occur in PM women with and without MBS, although the changes in the latter are minimal. Blood pressure was not affected by HT in women with MBS.


      Weight gain and obesity largely drives the increased prevalence of MBS in PM women. Use of HT is beneficial overall for reducing many of the parameters of MBS. Our own data would suggest that in MBS, transdermal therapy may be preferable to oral therapy, at least in standard doses.


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