Effects of Hormones on Body Fat by Dr. Oz
While you never want fat hanging around your waist, for many people it’s often the first place it goes and the last place it leaves when you gain a few pounds. Believe it or not, love handles aren't just unattractive, carrying weight around your abdomen is bad for your health – worse than carrying weight on your hips or thighs – and is a key indicator of a hormonal imbalance. If you have struggled to lose weight or keep it off, I guarantee that your hormones are at play. Your hormones control every aspect of weight loss including your metabolism, where you store your fat, your appetite and even your cravings! This means any form of hormonal imbalance will sabotage your efforts – regardless of your diet and exercise habits.
Extra belly fat can indicate one or more of the following hormonal imbalances: high estrogen, low testosterone, low DHEA (a hormone of the adrenal glands), high insulin and high cortisol. Abdominal fat also sets a risky stage for aging, increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. A program to get rid of this stubborn fat must include proper diet, exercise, sleep and, of course, motivation. All of these components work well to instil a healthy balance that allows fat loss to occur. We will talk more specifically about each of the hormonal players in this process, and my suggestions for supplements that can help get you back on track.
1. High Insulin: Insulin is an essential substance whose main function is to process sugar in the bloodstream and carry it into cells to be used as fuel or stored as fat. A primary cause is excess intake of sugar or carbohydrates typical of many diets today. This includes nutrient-poor carbohydrates such as processed foods, sugary drinks and sodas, packaged low-fat foods, along with insufficient protein intake, inadequate fat intake, and deficient fibre consumption. Insulin resistance may also be attributed to lack of exercise, overindulging in alcohol, stress, a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure and excess body fat, especially around the abdomen. Chronically high levels of insulin can also lead to a pre-diabetic condition called metabolic syndrome (or insulin resistance) and type 2 diabetes, which only furthers weight gain. It is currently estimated that 1 out of every 4 North Americans has insulin resistance.
2. High Cortisol: Persistently elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are very detrimental to your health as well as to your body composition. If you suffer from a mood disorder such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or exhaustion, or if you have a digestive issue such as irritable bowel syndrome, you can bet your body is cranking up your cortisol. Not only does it increase your appetite and cravings, it causes a loss of muscle mass, libido and bone density, and also contributes to depression and memory loss. In other words, chronic stress makes us soft, flabby and much older than we truly are! Study after study shows that stress causes abdominal fat – even in people who are otherwise thin. Researchers at Yale University, for example, found slender women who had high cortisol also had more abdominal fat. More results published in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine in 2000 established a link between cortisol and increased storage of abdominal fat.
3. High Estrogen: Abdominal fat in men increases the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. As estrogen levels rise, so does the tendency to accumulate more abdominal fat, fuelling the situation. The risk of prostate cancer also increases with higher estrogen levels. A premenopausal woman with high levels of estrogen (also known as estrogen dominance) will likely have PMS, too much body fat around the hips and difficulty losing weight. Menopausal women and, yes, men too, may experience low libido, memory loss, poor motivation, depression, loss of muscle mass, and increased belly fat.
4. Low Testosterone: Testosterone levels decrease as abdominal fat converts it to estrogen, and also with increasing stress. While you are under stress, your body will tend to make more stress hormone (cortisol) than testosterone. Testosterone levels tend to taper off with aging, obesity and stress, but today men are experiencing testosterone decline much earlier in life. This is quite an alarming finding, considering low testosterone has been linked to depression, obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease and even death. Researchers from the University of Washington found that men with low testosterone are more likely to develop a potbelly and other body fat. They also found that testosterone may prompt the loss of body fat when deficient levels are replaced. Other signs that you may have low testosterone levels include a loss of muscle tissue, depression, and decreased strength, stamina, drive and motivation. If you have your testosterone levels measured with a blood test, be sure to ask that both free and total testosterone be measured.
5. Low DHEA: DHEA is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is a precursor to estrogen and testosterone and also helps to counteract the negative effects of cortisol. Often touted as the anti-aging hormone, DHEA influences our ability to lose fat and gain muscle. It boosts libido and helps us feel motivated, youthful and energetic.
If you think you are out of balance, can not lose weight no matter what you do...see a Physician! The only way to know is to have your hormones checked, tested! Then, do your research and find the best solution for you!
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