Is Obesity Caused By Hormones? An Endocrinologist Answers

Doctors know that lifestyle is just one factor in obesity.

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Obesity is a complex, chronic illness that affects almost half of the population in the United States. Many believe their obesity comes solely from overeating or inactivity. While lifestyle is a contributing factor, it isn’t the only one. Things like genetics, environment, and hormones can affect your risk of obesity as well.

Hormones and Obesity

Hormones are like messengers that travel throughout the body. They coordinate complex processes like growth, metabolism, fertility, and more. At times, your body may experience a hormone imbalance that could contribute to obesity.

For example, hypothyroidism is a condition where you have an underactive thyroid gland. That means your thyroid produces too few hormones for your body’s natural processes. Hypothyroidism can slow down your metabolism and cause weight gain. Other symptoms include tiredness, muscle aches, depression, and sensitivity to the cold.

Cushing’s syndrome is a disorder linked to having too much cortisol in the blood for a long period of time. In normal amounts, cortisol helps the body respond to stress, keep the immune system in check, maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function, and convert fat, carbohydrates and proteins into energy.

Which Hormones Affect Weight?

There are different hormones the body produces that can cause obesity. These include:

  • Leptin: Leptin reduces a person's appetite and their urge to eat. It also seems to control how the body manages its store of body fat. People who are obese may develop leptin resistance. This means there are high amounts of leptins in their system, but the body isn’t using it appropriately. This causes them to not get the signal that they are full.
  • Insulin: A hormone that is important for the regulation of carbohydrates and the metabolism of fat. People who are obese often develop insulin resistance, which can can make it difficult to lose weight.
  • Somatotropin: This hormone often affects a person's height and helps build bone and muscle. Researchers have found that growth hormone levels in people who are obese are lower than in people of normal weight.

What Doctors Recommend

Nowadays, there are a few options someone with obesity can consider if they want to get their weight under control. These include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Healthier eating combined with physical activity can help.
  • FDA-approved medications: There are a few medications for weight loss that have been around long enough for doctors to know how they will affect someone.
  • Bariatric surgery: A few patients may be eligible for bariatric surgery, but it is best to consult with your doctor first to see if it is the right fit for you.

Getting your weight under control doesn’t have to be something you go through alone. Talk to your primary care physician or endocrinologist in order to come up with a plan that is right for you.