Effects of sex steroid hormones on regional fat depots as assessed by magnetic resonance imaging in transsexuals

J.M. Elbers, H. Asscheman, J C Seidell, Louis J G Gooren

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We investigated prospectively the effect of sex steroids on regional fat depots and thigh muscle mass in adult transsexuals. Ethinyl estradiol in combination with cyproterone acetate, a progestational antiandrogen, was given to 20 male-to-female (M-F) transsexuals, and parenteral testosterone esters were given to 17 female-to-male (F-M) transsexuals. Before and after 12 mo of cross-sex hormone administration, several anthropometric measurements (weight, skinfolds, body circumferences, and bioimpedance) were performed, and transverse magnetic resonance images were obtained at the level of the abdomen, hip, and thigh to quantify fat depots (subcutaneous and visceral) and muscle areas. We observed that treatment with ethinyl estradiol in M-F transsexuals induced a significant increase in all subcutaneous fat depots, with a lesser but proportional and significant increase in the visceral fat depot and a decrease in thigh muscle area. Testosterone administration in F-M transsexuals markedly increased thigh muscle area, reduced subcutaneous fat deposition at all levels measured, but slightly increased the visceral fat area. We conclude that sex steroid hormones are important determinants of the sex-specific localization of body fat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E317-25
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology
Issue number2 Pt 1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1999


  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Anthropometry
  • Cyproterone Acetate
  • Drug Combinations
  • Estradiol Congeners
  • Ethinyl Estradiol
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Transsexualism
  • Clinical Trial
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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