BACKGROUND: Racial/ethnic disparities in the associations of body fatness with hormones and metabolic factors remain poorly understood. Therefore, we evaluated whether the associations of overall and central body fatness with circulating sex steroid hormones and metabolic factors differ by race/ethnicity.
METHODS: Data from 1,243 non-Hispanic white (NHW), non-Hispanic black (NHB) and Mexican-American (MA) adult men in the third national health and nutrition examination survey (NHANES III) were analyzed. Waist circumference (central body fatness) was measured during the physical examination. Percent body fat (overall body fatness) was calculated from bioelectrical impedance. Associations were estimated by using weighted linear regression models to adjust the two measures of body fatness for each other.
RESULTS. Waist circumference, but not percent body fat was inversely associated with total testosterone and SHBG in all three racial/ethnic groups after their mutual adjustment (all P < 0.0001). Percent body fat (P = 0.02), but not waist circumference was positively associated with total estradiol in NHB men; no association was present in NHW and MA men (P-interaction = 0.04). Waist circumference, but not body fat was strongly positively associated with fasting insulin (all P < 0.0001) and inversely associated with HDL cholesterol (all P ≤ 0.003) in all three racial/ethnic groups. Both percent body fat and waist circumference were positively associated with leptin (all P < 0.0001) in all three racial/ethnic groups.
CONCLUSIONS. There was no strong evidence in the associations of sex hormones and metabolic factors with body fatness in different racial/ethnic groups. These findings should be further explored in prospective studies to determine their relevance in racial/ethnic disparities of chronic diseases.