The role of oestrogen in determining sexual dimorphism in energy balance

Anne Nicole De Jesus, Belinda A. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleOtherpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Energy balance is determined by caloric intake and the rate at which energy is expended, with the latter comprising resting energy expenditure, physical activity and adaptive thermogenesis. The regulation of both energy intake and expenditure exhibits clear sexual dimorphism, with young women being relatively protected against weight gain and the development of cardiometabolic diseases. Preclinical studies have indicated that females are more sensitive to the satiety effects of leptin and insulin compared to males. Furthermore, females have greater thermogenic activity than males, whereas resting energy expenditure is generally higher in males than females. In addition to this, in post-menopausal women, the decline in sex steroid concentration, particularly in oestrogen, is associated with a shift in the distribution of adipose tissue and overall increased propensity to gain weight. Oestrogens are known to regulate energy balance and weight homeostasis via effects on both food intake and energy expenditure. Indeed, 17β-oestradiol treatment increases melanocortin signalling in the hypothalamus to cause satiety. Furthermore, oestrogenic action at the ventromedial hypothalamus has been linked with increased energy expenditure in female mice. We propose that oestrogen action on energy balance is multi-faceted and is fundamental to determining sexual dimorphism in weight control. Furthermore, evidence suggests that the decline in oestrogen levels leads to increased risk of weight gain and development of cardiometabolic disease in women across the menopausal transition. (Figure presented.).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-449
Number of pages15
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • 17β-oestradiol
  • energy expenditure
  • thermogenesis and food intake

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