The 'female advantage' in kidney disease does not extend to diabetic women

en with diabetes are more likely to get kidney disease than their non-diabetic female counterparts, the Georgetown researchers conducted several studies in which they determined that:

  • diabetes is associated with reduced estrogen (estradiol) levels, which may explain why the females lose the protective factor when it comes to diabetes

  • estrogen and estrogen-like supplements protect the kidney in an animal model of diabetic renal disease, suggesting that restoring estrogen levels provides protection against kidney disease

  • the absence of the hormone testosterone contributes to a more rapid progression of kidney disease when diabetes is present. More severe renal damage can be found when diabetes is present.


These findings suggest that sex hormones play a significant role in the development of diabetic kidney disease. According to Maric, "Our observations suggest that kidney disease in diabetic women may not be the result of absolute levels of hormones, as previously thought, but to the relative ratio of [sex hormone] androgen to estrogen. It may well be that the ratio of the two hormones is what determines the effect of the hormones in the diabetic kidney."

According to Dr. Maric, "The biggest surprise has been the finding that sex hormones -- normally thought to control only the reproductive function -- are involved in controlling processes in non-reproductive organs, including the kidney. Moving forward, we need to look more deeply into understanding how sex hormones affect organ function in each gender."


Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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