Aromatase, adiposity, aging and disease. The hypogonadal-metabolic-atherogenic-disease and aging connection

P G Cohen 1



In males, aging, health and disease are processes that occur over physiologic time and involve a cascade of hormonal, biochemical and physiological changes that accompany the down-regulation of the hypothalamic-anterior pituitary-testicular axis. As aging progresses there are relative increases of body fat and decreases in muscle mass. The increased adipose tissue mass is associated with the production of a number of newly generated factors. These include aromatase, leptin, PAI-1, insulin resistance, and the dyslipidemias, all of which can lead to tissue damage. Fatty tissue becomes the focal point for study as it represents the intersection between energy storage and mobilization. The increase in adipose tissue is associated with an increase in the enzyme aromatase that converts testosterone to estradiol and leads to diminished testosterone levels that favor the preferential deposition of visceral fat. As the total body fat mass increases, hormone resistance develops for leptin and insulin. Increasing leptin fails to prevent weight gain and the hypogonadal-obesity cycle ensues causing further visceral obesity and insulin resistance. The progressive insulin resistance leads to a high triglyceride-low HDL pattern of dyslipidemia and increased cardiovascular risk. All of these factors eventually contribute to the CHAOS Complex: coronary disease, hypertension, adult-onset diabetes mellitus, obesity and/or stroke as permanent changes unfold. Other consequences of the chronic hypogonadal state include osteopenia, extreme fatigue, depression, insomnia, loss of aggressiveness and erectile dysfunction all of which develop over variable periods of time.