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The Relationship Between Obesity and Hormonal Imbalance

Obesity refers to a state of body weight that is much higher than what is ideal for a person’s height and body type. Those who are considered obese can have multiple health issues. Among these problems is an imbalance in the hormones that are needed in the normal physiological functions of the body.

What are some of the hormones affected with obesity and how can you tell that there is a problem (or problems) with this? What can you do to rectify the situation? This and more will be discussed in this article.

Obesity and insulin functions

Those who are in good health and weight, have insulin producing in their body that easily manages the level of sugar in the blood. Relatively higher blood sugar, which can come after eating, is managed by a transient rise in insulin levels. This helps to metabolize it into energy or into storable forms.

For those with obesity, this natural process is disrupted. It is not yet very clear how increased fat deposits in the body affect this natural process. However, studies have established a relationship between insulin resistance (inability to control blood sugar levels, although insulin production may be adequate) and obesity. This state can lead to onset of type 2 diabetes. Common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Lethargy
  • Neuritis
  • Sexual health problems

Obesity and thyroid hormones imbalance

Studies have established a link between obesity and impaired functions of the thyroid gland. In these cases, the thyroid hormones including thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) have been found to be different in obese patients and have been found to be low, elevated, or even at normal levels

The abnormal levels of the hormone present with different sets of symptoms. This can trigger a vicious cycle where obesity leads to thyroid dysfunction which under certain conditions leads to weight gain. Common symptoms of thyroid hormones imbalance include:

  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Cold intolerance
  • Heavy menstruation
  • Foggy mind
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Rough coarse skin and hair

Obesity and testosterone levels

In a study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, the authors found that there is a relationship between low testosterone levels and obesity. Once obesity sets in, it can lead to other abnormal developments that support low testosterone levels. These include loss of muscle mass and function.

In addition to this, substances called cytokines are produced in higher amount by the accumulated fat tissue. Cytokines have been found to support inflammation that leads to poor muscle tone. This in turn leads to a sedentary life that can further lead to weight gain.

Symptoms of low testosterone levels (in males) include:

  • Low sex drive
  • Infertility
  • Increased body fat
  • Enlarged breasts
  • Low muscle mass and tone
  • Increased hair loss
  • Dropping rate of spontaneous erections

Obesity and adrenal gland functions

The adrenal glands are found atop the kidneys. They produce important hormones that have wide physiological functions. There is a close interaction between this gland and other hormone producing glands. One of these relationships is between the hypothalamus, the pituitary and the adrenal gland. Hormones produced by this gland include:

  • Steroid hormones such as aldosterone and cortisol
  • Sex steroids hormones such as androgens
  • Epinephrine, norepinephrine, and some dopamine


How obesity affect these hormones

Many things can and do go wrong here as many studies have proved. High levels of aldosterone have been associated with obesity. Sustained levels of this hormone lead to fluid retention, high blood pressure and weight gain. The type of blood pressure, due to this disorder, does not respond to conventional medications used for treating hypertension.

On the other hand, research has found that catecholamine’s have fat breaking properties. In obesity, this function is reduced which leads to more fat deposits in the body and increased health problems associated with obesity.

Effects of obesity on family and social life

In a report published in the National Institutes of Health (NIH)  of August 13 2007 (online), it was found that obesity can be ‘contagious’ among family members or among friends. So if a spouse is obese, chances are the other is or is at a high risk of becoming the same. The connection is not yet fully understood but it could partly be due to the shared lifestyle that may have contributed to the obesity in the first place.

This can lead to increased risk of disease burden in the family as the potential of health problems associated with obesity increase. Intimate relationships can also be adversely affected.

How obesity affects social life

Obesity can affect a person’s social life. These can include the circle of friends and even employment opportunities or career progression. Obesity increases insurance premium costs since obese people are considered to be at a higher risk by insurance companies.

According to Harvard School of Public Health, obesity is only second to tobacco use in the number of mortalities related preventable lifestyle choices. Other associated problems include:

  • Emotional stress
  • Discrimination
  • Less earning power
  • This may be due to the effects of obesity on the opioid neurotransmitters in the brain. These are responsible for general good feeling but in obesity the levels can be reduced which lead to sadness
  • Inability to associate fully in group activities. This can lead to self-isolation and more emotional problems

How to tackle obesity

According to research findings, most of the problems discussed above have been reversed or at least been improved with weight reduction efforts. Some ways to help you reduce weight include:

  1. Be as physically active as you can. It can start with walking and progress to more exerting exercises. Working with a trainer or physiotherapist can help.
  2. Adjust your diet. A nutritionist can help you in this regard.
  3. Control your emotions. Identify and manage (or seek help) your life stressors. Emotional balance leads to less stress hormone (cortisol) levels. Sustained levels of cortisol leads to increased fat deposits (obesity) and associated disorders.
  4. Adopt healthy lifestyle such as getting enough sleep, controlling your portions, stop alcohol consumption, taking 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider daily. According to the authority nutrition, apple cider has multiple benefits that favor preventing or reversing obesity.
  5. Keep track of your weight. Even small drops will motivate you to keep at it.

Take charge and beat obesity

Managing obesity is a big challenge at both personal and even professional level. Leading an inspired life can help you achieve health goals that may appear unreachable at first glance. How can you create an inspired life? While personal drive may help you with this, at other times you may need help to keep you motivated and focused on your weight reduction goal.

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