Post-heparin lipolytic enzyme activities, sex hormones and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in men and women: The HERITAGE Family Study

A. Desmeules, C. Couillard, A. Tchernof, J. Bergeron, T. Rankinen, A. S. Leon, D. C. Rao, J. S. Skinner, J. H. Wilmore, J. P. Després, C. Bouchard

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We tested the hypothesis that androgen, estrogen, and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels would be significantly related to post-heparin hepatic lipase (HL) and lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activities in a sample of Caucasian men (n=233) and women (n=235) aged 17-64 years from the HERITAGE Family Study. Body composition (hydrostatic weighing), abdominal adipose tissue distribution (computed tomography), plasma lipid-lipoprotein and hormone levels, and post-heparin lipases activities were measured. HL activity was significantly higher in males, whereas LPL activity was higher in women (P<0.005). In women only, HL activity was positively associated with body fat mass (r=0.17, P<0.05) and intra-abdominal adipose tissue area (r=0.18, P<0.05). Significant associations were also found between fasting insulin and LPL activity (r=-0.16, P<0.05 and r=-0.18, P<0.005) as well as HL activity (r=0.22, P<0.005, and r=0.27, P<0.0001) in men and women, respectively. A positive association between total testosterone and HL activity was noted in men (r=0.13, P=0.05). In women, plasma SHBG levels were negatively associated with HL activity (r=-0.48, P<0.0001), and statistical adjustment for body fat mass, visceral adipose tissue area, and fasting insulin did not attenuate this correlation. In multivariate analyses with models including adiposity variables and measurements of the hormonal profile, insulin, and testosterone levels were both independent positive predictors of HL activity in men. In women, hormone use was a significant positive predictor, and SHBG level a strong negative predictor of HL activity, independent of plasma estradiol and testosterone concentrations. Fasting insulin was the only significant predictor of LPL activity in men (negative association), whereas menstrual status, fasting insulin (negative associations), and plasma SHBG levels (positive association) were all independent predictors of LPL activity in women. These results suggest that the postulated sensitivity of lipolytic enzymes to androgens and estrogens is reflected by a strong negative association between SHBG levels and HL, and a lower magnitude positive association of this hormonal parameter to LPL activity in women. These associations appear to be independent from concomitant variation in total adiposity or body fat distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-350
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The HERITAGE Family Study is supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute through the following grants: HL45670 (C. Bouchard), HL47323 (A.S. Leon), HL47317 (D.C. Rao), HL47327 (J.S. Skinner) and HL47321 (J.H. Wilmore). André Tchernof and Jean Bergeron are recipients of scholarships from the Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Québec (FRSQ). Charles Couillard is the recipient of a FRSQ–CHUQ/CHUL scholarship. Jean–Pierre Després is chair professor of nutrition and lipidology supported by Pfizer Canada, Provigo, and the Québec Heart Institute Foundation. Arthur S. Leon is partially supported by the Henry L. Taylor Professorship in Exercise Science and Health Enhancement. Claude Bouchard is partially supported by the George A. Bray Chair in Nutrition. Gratitude is expressed to Drs Alain Bélanger and Jacques Gagnon for the steroid assays and their contributions to the HERITAGE Family Study. The contribution of all families enrolled in the HERITAGE project is gratefully acknowledged.


  • HDL-cholesterol
  • Hepatic lipase
  • Lipoprotein lipase
  • Sex hormone-binding globulin
  • Sex hormones


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