The link between hormonal balance and weight gain
Hormones that Affect Weight Gain and How to Improve Them
If you’ve recently gained weight, chances are it is due to a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet. However, this isn’t always the cause. Hormonal imbalances can also promote weight gain. Hormones are chemical messengers that control important functions, such as reproduction, sexual function, mood, and metabolism. Changes in hormonal levels can, at times, cause unexpected and uncontrollable weight gain.
Unfortunately, diet and exercise regimens cannot solve weight gain caused by hormones. Below are the key hormones that control appetite, satiety, metabolism, and fat distribution.
Estrogen is a predominantly female sex hormone that regulates the reproductive system. It also affects the immune, vascular, and skeletal systems. Estrogen levels significantly change during pregnancy, after birth, and menopause. High levels often cause obesity and increase the risks of some cancers and chronic diseases.
On the other hand, estrogen levels decrease due to advancing age and during perimenopause and menopause. Declining estrogen levels affect body fat and body weight. It also increases the risks of developing chronic ailments, such as high blood pressure, heart diseases, and high blood sugar. Low estrogen levels in women are often characterized by central obesity, a condition where fat accumulates at the trunk.
Several lifestyle changes can help regulate estrogen levels. Among them include:
- Try maintaining your weight – maintaining and losing weight reduces the risks of health issues associated with low estrogen levels. Maintaining weight is also crucial in preventing the development of chronic diseases.
- Exercise regularly – declining estrogen levels reduce activity. However, regular exercise is important when estrogen levels are low.
- Stick to a balanced diet – consuming red meat, sweets, refined grains, and processed foods increases estrogen levels and the risk of chronic diseases. Always limit intake of such foods.
Both high and low estrogen levels promote weight gain and the risk of chronic illnesses. Therefore, you should maintain a healthy diet and exercise to reduce these risks.
Leptin is an important hormone that regulates satiety. It sends satiety signals to the hypothalamus, the part of the brain regulating appetite. Those with hormonal obesity might have some degree of leptin resistance, meaning satiety signals don’t reach the brain, causing one to overeat. While the primary cause of leptin resistance remains unknown, it is thought to occur due to inflammation, excessive leptin production, and genetic mutations.
There’s no treatment for leptin resistance. However, the following lifestyle changes can reduce leptin levels:
- Maintain a healthy weight – leptin resistance is mostly associated with obesity. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight can decrease body fat and reduce leptin levels.
- Improve sleep quality – high leptin levels may also occur due to poor sleeping patterns. Good sleep quality reduces leptin levels and is beneficial in many other ways.
- Regular exercise – consistent physical activity reduces leptin levels.
- Leptin resistance leads to overeating. Sleeping well, exercising regularly, and maintaining weight help reduce leptin levels.
Insulin is a storage hormone produced by the pancreas. Ideally, insulin should promote the conversion and storage of glucose in the liver, muscle, and fat cells. The body produces low amounts of insulin normally and large amounts after meals. Insulin then converts glucose from dietary meals into energy for cells or glycogen for storage, depending on body needs.
Most people with hormonal obesity experience insulin resistance, a condition where the body cells don’t respond to insulin. Insulin resistance directly leads to high blood sugar. The pancreas increases insulin production to enhance glucose absorption. Insulin resistance is linked to weight gain and other conditions, specifically type 2 Diabetes and heart diseases.
Treating hormonal obesity caused by insulin resistance requires focusing on activities that improve insulin sensitivity. These include:
- Exercising regularly – several studies have shown that moderate and high activities improve insulin sensitivity.
- Change your diet – The Mediterranean diet, such as veggies and healthy fat, reduce insulin resistance. Decreasing the intake of trans and saturated fats also helps.
- Improve your sleeping habits – insufficient or poor-quality sleep promotes insulin resistance and obesity.
- Take omega-3-fatty acid supplements – omega-3 supplements improve insulin sensitivity in individuals with diabetes and other metabolic diseases.
- Maintaining moderate weight – weight management and healthy weight loss improves insulin sensitivity in overweight individuals.
Neuropeptide Y hormone is produced by the brain and nervous system in the body. It decreases energy use while stimulating appetite during stress or when fasting. Its effects on appetite associate Neuropeptide Y with weight gain and obesity. NPY’s activation occurs in the fat tissue. Therefore, it can promote fat storage and cause metabolic syndrome. The following tips can regulate Neuropeptide Y levels:
- Exercise – regular exercises help keep Neuropeptide Y hormone levels in check.
- Eat a nutritious diet – high sugar and fat diets increase neuropeptide hormone levels. Therefore, reduce the consumption of foods with high sugar and fat levels.
The Bottom Line
Unlike conventional weight gain, hormonal weight gain occurs due to hormonal imbalances and disorders. Notable symptoms of hormonal weight gain include uneven weight distribution and accumulation of weight in specific body parts, such as thighs, arms, chest, lower body, and waist. Besides regular exercise and a healthy diet, hormonal replacement therapies can help balance hormone levels in the body.