Hormones are chemicals produced by glands in our body that act as regulators of vital bodily functions. These chemical messengers are responsible for our growth and development, mood, appetite, metabolism, and sexual function.
That’s why even a small disturbance in the hormonal levels- when your body releases too little or too much of a hormone — can significantly impact your health.
How do hormones influence weight?
Here’s a breakdown of the hormones that control hunger, fullness, metabolism, and fat distribution, all of which can influence body weight.
|HORMONES THAT CONTROL APPETITE||HORMONES THAT AFFECT METABOLISM||HORMONES THAT AFFECT FAT DISTRIBUTION|
HORMONES THAT CONTROL APPETITE
- Ghrelin “the hunger hormone”- Stimulates the hypothalamus (an area of the brain) indicating that your stomach is empty, and you need food.
- Leptin “the fullness hormone”-Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells of the body. It reduces your urge to eat by acting on the hypothalamus to indicate that you are ‘full’.
- Cholecystokinin (CCK)– CCK is a hormone released by the small intestine in response to food (especially fat and protein). It reduces food intake by stimulating ‘fullness’ centers in your brain, and it also increases the release of leptin.
Obesity is strongly associated with abnormalities in leptin (including elevated levels of leptin and leptin resistance) and low ghrelin levels. This may lead to overeating and weight gain.
HORMONES THAT AFFECT METABOLISM
Hormones that influence the number of calories your body burns (also called energy expenditure) play a significant role in weight management and obesity.
- Insulin “the storage hormone”– Insulin is produced by your pancreas. This hormone transfers glucose from food into your cells for either energy or storage (in your liver, muscle, and fat cells for later), depending on your body’s needs.
- Thyroid-The thyroid gland secretes hormones that are responsible for the regulation of metabolism. Hypothyroidism characterized by low thyroid hormone levels leads to less energy expenditure. This is why people with hypothyroidism may gain weight and are always tired and lethargic.
- Cortisol “the stress hormone”- Cortisol is produced by your adrenal glands that trigger an increase in heart rate and energy levels during times of stress. Cortisol redistributes fat to the abdominal region and increases appetite (especially a craving for foods rich in fat and sugar).
Elevated levels of insulin and insulin resistance (Diabetes) and elevated cortisol levels may lead to weight gain.
HORMONES THAT AFFECT FAT DISTRIBUTION
Fat storage in specific regions of our body is strictly regulated by certain hormones.
- Estrogen-Estrogen is responsible for regulating the female reproductive system. Estrogen levels change throughout the menstrual cycle as well as during pregnancy, nursing, and menopause. Individuals with low estrogen are more likely to gain body fat, especially in the midsection.
- Testosterone-Testosterone is the hormone responsible for the development of the male reproductive organs, sperm production, and libido. As a man gets older, these levels gradually decrease, and this leads to fat accumulation in the belly.
A low level of sex hormones can affect your weight and health besides your libido and fertility.
The bottom line
Endocrinologists, who are doctors specializing in hormones and metabolism can evaluate and treat any disturbance in your hormonal balance and help you lead a healthy life.