I’ll never forget a day in Mr. H’s class back in highschool. I went to an all girls’ school, and we didn’t have many male teachers. We loved Mr. H like a father, he was often the subject of discussion, and we ceaselessly teased him! On this particular day it was absolutely lovely outside- spring had sprung! We all entered our sophomore math class and immediately started hassling Mr. H to teach class outside. He adamantly responded, “No!” to all of our pleas. Then, one of my friends (coincidentally, she herself is now a teacher!) said very loudly, something along the lines of, “There’s just way too much estrogen in here!”. Mr. H had no idea how to respond to that, but it did the trick, and we won!
Today is International Womens’ Day, and I thought I could do my part by featuring these important female biochemicals! The three major estrogens women naturally produce are estrone, estradiole and estriol. Estradiol is the primary estrogen in young reproductive women, whereas estrone is the key for women during menopause. I bet you can guess when the third estrogen, estriol, is most important! That’s right, when she’s expecting! There’s a fourth estrogen that’s only produced during pregnancy called estetrol.
Did you know that some types of estrogen are produced by testerone? Men get all the testosterone-related hype, but women have it too! I guess it’s because men have about ten times as much of it than women.
Where in the body is estrogen produced?
- primarily the ovaries (the placenta when there’s a baby on the way)
- the liver
- the adrenal glands (have you seen our humorous adrenal gland video?)
- the breasts
What are some of the roles of estrogen in women and some roles for men since they have small amounts too (I’ll let you figure out which are only for women)?
- developing into a lady (well, perhaps not a “lady” but a woman ;))
- regulating the time of the month and aspects associated with it
- sex drive
- accelerating metabolism
- increasing bone formation
- increase fat stores
- promote lung function
Basically, estrogens have a lot of jobs in the mammalian body, and they don’t all have to do with sex or the reproductive system! I think it’s important to briefly mention here that many products (especially soy) get a lot of press about increasing the estrogen levels in men. This is not true! There are compounds in them called phytoestrogens that behave similar to estrogen, and this can affect the functions of estrogen in the body, but they will not make a guy grow breasts!. Here’s a nice article about it if you’re interested.
Venus Symbol via Wikimedia Commons