Among adults, higher T predicts lower VAT in men and higher VAT in women, and higher E2 predicts greater SAT in women. The degree to which the association between adiposity and sex steroids is bidirectional is controversial. Using data from a cohort of adolescents, we examined whether sex steroid levels in early puberty influenced VAT and SAT deposition in adolescents. EPOCH participants (n=418, 209 girls and 209 boys) underwent sex steroid measures at visit 1 (mean age 10 years) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) assessments of VAT and SAT at visit 1 and visit 2 (mean age 17 years). Using mixed models, we examined whether T and E2 at visit 1 were associated with overall VAT and SAT levels from visit 1 to visit 2. Models adjusted for maternal education and income as well as children’s race, pubertal status, caloric intake, physical activity levels, insulin, leptin, and MRI-measured hepatic fat fraction. Among girls, each unit increase in T was associated with a higher overall VAT (0.16, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.04, 0.28) and SAT (0.33, 95% CI 0.33, 1.52) levels. Each unit increase in E2 was associated with overall higher SAT (0.56, 95% CI 0.28, 0.83) levels. Among boys, undetectable T was associated with higher VAT (5.12, 95% CI 1.90, 8.36) and lower SAT (-18.85, 95% CI -36.23, -1.46) levels. We conclude that endogenous T and E2 during the pubertal transition significantly influence adolescent adipose tissue deposition in both boys and girls. Future investigations should examine how the use of exogenous sex hormones impacts adipose tissue deposition during this critical period. Additional follow-up is needed to determine how adolescent fat deposition impacts subsequent glucose tolerance in early adulthood.
C. Kim: Research Support; Spouse/Partner; Apple. K.K. Harrall: None. D.H. Glueck: None. D. Dabelea: None.
National Institutes of Health (R01DK068001)