1. The clinical association between glucose intolerance, hyperinsulinaemia, insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism is well recognized in premenopausal women with polycystic ovarian disease. We examined the hypothesis that fasting plasma glucose levels might be related to endogenous androgen levels in postmenopausal women in the absence of overt clinical disease.
2. In a Southern Californian cohort of 848 non-diabetic postmenopausal women aged 50–79 years, fasting plasma glucose levels positively correlated with levels of the endogenous androgens dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate and free testosterone and negatively with sex-hormone-binding globulin across the whole range of glucose and hormone levels. Mean dihydroepiandro-sterone sulphate and free testosterone levels were 16% and 46% higher, respectively, and mean sex-hormone-binding globulin levels 27% lower in the top compared with the bottom quartile of fasting plasma glucose levels. This relationship was independent of age, body mass index, cigarette smoking habit and exogenous oestrogen use.
3. These findings raise questions about the possible physiological role of androgens in the regulation of glucose metabolism and insulin resistance and, possibly, in the mediation of the some of the cardiovascular consequences of diabetes in women.