While diet is a contributing factor to obesity, hormones, genetics, stress and physical activity also play a significant role in regulating weight.
Hormones regulate appetite, metabolism, and fat distribution. They also affect weight loss efforts. When your hormones are imbalanced, achieving your weight goals become increasingly difficult. This is because hormonal imbalances interfere with your body’s natural mechanisms for regulating weight.
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Unbalanced hormone levels can lead to excessive weight gain and obesity. Understanding the hormones that affect obesity and weight loss is key to addressing unhealthy weight gain. Let us look at various hormones and their relationship to obesity and weight loss:
What is Insulin?
Insulin helps cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream and influences glucose storage. The body carefully regulates the amount of insulin released based on the amount of glucose present in your bloodstream. When blood sugar levels are high, insulin is released to help cells absorb glucose. In order to maintain a stable blood sugar level, insulin production decreases as blood sugar levels fall.
Insulin resistance is a condition where cells become less responsive to insulin. When insulin resistance occurs, initially the body responds by producing increasing quantities of insulin to control blood sugar. Initially, this works. However, excessively high insulin levels impair our ability to burn fat and actually leads to more fat production and fat storage. Together, this further increases insulin resistance, causing progressive weight gain, making weight loss even more challenging. In certain people, this vicious cycle can become so severe that it becomes impossible for their bodies to produce enough insulin to control their blood sugar, and they develop Type-2 diabetes.
Leptin, also called the “satiety hormone,” is produced by fat cells and plays a massive role in regulating hunger and maintaining a healthy weight. This hormone helps control appetite by signaling your brain when you’ve had enough to eat, thus reducing your urge to eat.
Leptin is an appetite-reducing hormone that prevents your body from triggering a hunger response when it doesn’t need energy. When people gain weight and accumulate excess fat, they develop leptin resistance.
When leptin resistance occurs, the brain grows less responsive to leptin, making it more difficult to feel satisfied by a meal. This leads to overeating and your body continues to make and store fat even though it has adequate fat reserves. Leptin resistance often leads to increased food cravings and overeating, making it harder to achieve your weight loss goals. Leptin resistance disrupts the brain’s normal signaling process and appetite regulation, which causes an increase in appetite and difficulty restricting one’s caloric intake.
The “hunger hormone,” ghrelin, is crucial in regulating appetite, influencing energy expenditure, and fat storage. This hormone is primarily released from cells in the stomach. Once released it travels through your bloodstream to your brain, and arouses hunger. Ghrelin stimulates food intake, elevates blood glucose levels, and affects your sleep/wake cycle.
Ghrelin levels can influence your weight loss efforts. Ghrelin levels increase before meals and decrease after eating. When the level of ghrelin in your bloodstream rises, you feel hungry, but when the level of ghrelin in your bloodstream plummets, you feel full, thus making it easier for you to eat fewer calories.
Obesity typically affects patients by causing dysregulated ghrelin levels, promoting fat accumulation and an increased propensity for overeating. The elevated ghrelin levels observed in overweight people and in patients diagnosed with obesity explain the excessive hunger levels experienced when attempting to lose weight or carry out dietary changes.
Hormones and Obesity
Insulin, leptin, and ghrelin are not the only hormones involved in weight regulation. A complex interplay of hormones and other factors contribute to weight gain and obesity. Understanding and implementing a sustainable lifestyle plan that takes advantage of the knowledge that the foods we choose, stress, activity and body fat all impact hormone production. These hormones can have a direct effect on our weight and our ability to lose weight. Take charge of your weight by leveraging lifestyle changes and medical interventions that will help you achieve and maintain your weight goals and optimize your health.
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