New Study to Investigate Effect of Physical Activity and Oestrogen Therapy on Fat Deposition Around Internal Organs in Women Whose Ovaries Have Been Surgically Removed

Posted on 07.10.2020

When women stop producing the female sex hormone, e.g. following removal of the ovaries, an increased incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease is observed. The mechanism is unknown, but a preceding increase in unhealthy fat deposition around the internal organs is thought to be significant, as is insulin resistance.

Women live about 40% of their lives after the menopause, when the body stops its natural production of the female sex hormone, oestrogen. The lack of oestrogen is observed to cause unhealthy fat deposits around the internal organs. In her postdoctoral project, which is the first of its kind, medical doctor and PhD Julie Abildgaard will investigate whether endurance training and oestrogen are equally valuable treatments for preventing unhealthy fat deposition around the internal organs following surgical removal of the ovaries, and whether oestrogen is important to the effect of endurance training in the prevention of fat deposition.

‘Physical activity has proven effective in the prevention of unhealthy fat deposition around the internal organs, so it could be a possible treatment strategy. However, as-yet unpublished studies suggest that adipose tissue may respond more poorly to training stimuli following the loss of oestrogen’, explains Julie Abildgaard, who became interested in oestrogen as a metabolic function regulator early on in her medical training. That was when she carried out her first scientific studies, looking at lipid metabolism in the skeletal musculature of pre- and post-menopausal women.

Four groups, with and without training

The postdoctoral project is a randomized controlled trial in which 60 healthy women who are to have their ovaries removed because of a family risk of cancer will be randomly divided into four groups: placebo and no training, placebo and training, oestrogen and no training, and oestrogen and training. The women live in the Capital Region, Region Zealand and the Region of Southern Denmark.

‘The main goal is to observe changes in the storage of unhealthy fat around the internal organs. Secondary goals include a mechanistic understanding of how oestrogen affects fat deposition in a way that is appropriate from a health point of view’, says Julie Abildgaard.

Julie Abildgaard has received DKK 1.2 million from the Danish Diabetes Academy. The money is being awarded for a so-called split post, so that Abildgaard will divide her time between research and her clinical specialization. This will give her the opportunity to combine the two career paths and generate an interplay that will benefit her working life both as a researcher in the lab and as a registrar on the wards.

Julie Abildgaard’s study will be based at Rigshospitalet, with Professor Bente Klarlund Pedersen of the Centre for Physical Activity Research as primary project supervisor. There will have to be a period of long-distance supervision, because Julie Abildgaard will be taking her work with her to the University of Oxford, where she will work with Professor Frederik Karpe, whose research group is working on the relationship of obesity to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


Julie Abildgaard, medical doctor and PhD, born 1988

Has been awarded DKK 1.2 million by the Danish Diabetes Academy.

Postdoc project title: Effects of Exercise versus Estrogen on Visceral Fat Mass after Prophylactic Bilateral Oophorectomy: A Randomized Controlled Trial (OOPHEX)

Research centres: Centre for Physical Activity Research, Rigshospitalet / University of Oxford, UK

Contact: +45 6064 7094

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