The increasing prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MS) with age in older men has been linked with decreasing testosterone levels. Interestingly, while testosterone levels decline with age, estradiol (E2) levels remain relatively stable resulting in a decreased testosterone/estradiol ratio. Because E2 levels tend to be elevated in morbid obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, it is reasonable to hypothesize that high E2 levels are associated with MS in older men.
We studied the relationship of total and free E2 with MS after adjustment for multiple confounders including age, BMI, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, interleukin-6 (IL-6), fasting insulin and testosterone.
452 men 65 yr or older (age range 65–96) had complete data on estradiol, testosterone, fasting insulin, sex hormone binding globulin, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and albumin. Concentrations of free estradiol and free testosterone were calculated using the mass action equations. MS was defined according to ATPIII criteria.
Participants with MS had significantly higher serum free and total E2 (p<.001) (p=0.003). After adjusting for confounders, including age, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, log (IL-6), log (insulin), participants with higher log (total E2) (OR: 2.31, 95 % CI 1.39–4.70, p=0.02) and higher log (free E2) (OR: 2.69, 1.38–5.24, p<0.001) had an increased risk of having MS. Log (free E2) (p=0.04) maintained significant correlation with MS even after further adjustment for BMI.
In older men high E2 is independently associated with MS. Whether confirmed in other studies, assessment of E2 should be also considered in older men. Whether changes in this hormonal pattern play a role in the development of MS should be further tested in longitudinal studies.