Estriol Helps Regulate Blood Sugar
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
A new study with baby fat cells (3T3-L1 cells) demonstrates that estriol activates the genes that make visfatin, a hormone that comes from fat that helps to regulate blood sugar1. This study has far-reaching implications for women as a tool to help maintain healthier blood sugar levels.
Visfatin, like leptin, is a hormone produced by your fat cells. The primary hormone produced in fat cells that regulates blood sugar is called adiponectin. Visfatin appears to help blood sugar metabolism under forms of potential stress. For example, as your abdominal size increases visfatin levels rise, seemingly to help you metabolize blood sugar in the presence of being too fat. Similarly, visfatin levels rise during pregnancy to help regulate your blood sugar during the pregnancy as extra weight is gained. When you lose your extra pounds of stomach fat or after the weight gain of pregnancy is gone then visfatin levels return to normal.
The new research shows that estriol is the key hormone that activates visfatin production during pregnancy, and its production is synergistically enhanced by progesterone and estradiol (but not activated by these other two sex hormones).
This means that women lacking in estriol or progesterone during pregnancy are much more at risk for gestational diabetes.
However, estriol levels, as well as progesterone levels, decline with age and often take a jolt after menopause. Additionally, women who have had one or both ovaries removed will not make estriol at the proper rate. Women have a higher percentage of body fat than men so it makes sense that they have a way to regulate their blood sugar in the presence of this higher natural level of body fat: it appears estriol is the primary answer and progesterone is the secondary support to the estriol.
This study supports the theory that a decline in estriol due to aging (or surgery) contributes to insulin resistance, abdominal weight gain, and a rise in fasting blood sugar levels.
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