Hormones and their effect on weight

Hormones that play a role in the process of metabolism and weight regulation.


In our body there are three types of estrogens: estradiol, estrone and estriol. These three species are not interchangeable, because they have a decisive influence on the female body in middle age.

17-beta-estradiol (E2), the estrogen that dominates the human body, is produced by the ovaries, and during the menopause its formation completely ceases. Estradiol increases susceptibility to insulin, adds energy, causes good mood, promotes clarity of thinking, good memory, ability to concentrate, normal blood pressure, optimal bone density, sleep improvement, sexual desire and normal, active metabolic process.

A decrease in the level of estradiol in middle age leads to a decreased release of serotonin. Loss of serotonin leads, in turn, to depression, increased irritability, anxiety, hypersensitivity to pain, digestive disorders, the appearance of obsessive ideas, the disturbance of the normal rhythm of sleep. Each of these factors can slow down the metabolism, and therefore a decrease in the amount of estradiol leads to a problem of excess weight and difficulties in dropping it.

Estrone (E1) is produced by the ovaries and fatty tissues before and after menopause. When the amount of estradiol decreases during menopause, after the removal of the uterus or ligation of the fallopian tubes, the body begins to produce more estrone. A high level of estrone is associated with a low metabolic rate and, therefore, the appearance of excess weight. Estrone does not prevent unwanted changes associated with menopause, changes in the skin, bones, hair, blood vessels, brain and other organs. A high level of estrone also increases the risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer of the uterus.

Estriol (E3) – the weakest of human estrogens, produced by the placenta during pregnancy, in the body of non-pregnant is usually absent. Because of the weakened effect, it is often advertised as a “safe” estrogen, but in advertising it is not said that it does not have the same benefits as estradiol (E2). Estriol does not replace lost during menopause estradiol and does not perform its metabolic functions, so it will not restore the balance of estrogen in menopause and will not accelerate the metabolism. But if you take enough estriol to relieve the symptoms of menopause, then this hormone can also stimulate the functioning of the uterus and mammary glands.


Progesterone prepares the body for pregnancy and bearing, so the woman begins to eat for herself and for the baby. The level of progesterone is high in the second half of the cycle, this explains the appetite in this period. Other changes – fluid retention and breast enlargement – are also explained by the work of progesterone in preparation for pregnancy.

Progesterone slows the movement of food through the digestive tract, which allows the female body to absorb more nutrients. In hungry times, this should serve good women for pregnant women. (That’s why a woman can feel “bloated” during this period of the cycle.) Progesterone also affects the brain, having a sedative effect, but in many women this leads to decreased activity and to weight gain.


In the female body, there is testosterone (in a small amount, compared to the male orgasm), and with age its content decreases. With the onset of menopause testosterone in the female body begins to be produced in 2 times less, but this can occur at a younger age. Testosterone contributes not only to healthy sexual desire, but also plays an important role in regulating weight. This hormone is an anabolic, that is, it promotes the growth of muscle mass, and uses fats as fuel, which, in turn, helps to reduce weight.

More about this in the second part, from which you will learn that estradiol together with testosterone strongly affect weight and can help achieve a healthy balance of muscle mass and less fat. Since women lose up to 95% of estradiol and over 50% of testosterone, when the ovaries cease to function normally, it is not surprising that in middle age they have to struggle with excess weight. After all, they lose a huge amount of hormones that promote muscle growth, prevent the deposition of fats and accelerate the metabolism.


DHEA is another “male” hormone produced by the adrenal glands, as well as ovaries before menopause. DHEA was advertised as a hormone that helps to lose weight, but it is effective only for men. Modern research has shown that women taking this hormone gain weight and experience many side effects – hair loss and their appearance on the face, acne, cravings for sweets, restless sleep and irritability. Medications containing DHEA are available in wide sale, but since hormone doses in them are too high for women, undesirable side effects often occur.

Thyroid hormones

T3 and T4 are the main thyroid hormones produced by the thyroid gland. These are the main regulators of the metabolic process, since they regulate the use of energy and its reproduction in all cells and tissues of the body. The metabolism depends on the normal functioning of the thyroid hormones and the chemical reactions they cause at the cellular level. With a decrease in thyroid hormone work, especially when the functioning of the ovarian hormones is disrupted, women are very easy to gain weight, even if they begin to eat low-calorie food. Sometimes, in cases of excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, women gain weight in the first half of the cycle because of the increased appetite associated with the activity of these hormones.


Cortisol is known as a stress hormone, the level of which rises when there is a one-second or prolonged stimulation. Short and severe stress also causes adrenaline. However, due to both short-term and long-term reactions to stress and irritants, fat at the waist and the entire abdomen is postponed, not split. Why? After acute stress, you feel hunger because of the adrenaline in the blood, this leads to a desire to eat, especially sweet, and as a result you eat more than necessary. Chronic stress leaves you overworked, absolutely exhausted and with a desire to eat “soothing food” – sweet.

Insulin and glucagon

Insulin and glucagon affect the amount of glucose (“sugar”) in the blood, as well as the ratio of fats and muscle mass. They are called counter-regulating hormones, since they have the opposite effect on blood sugar (glucose). Insulin lowers glucose levels, causing it to pass from the blood to the muscle cells where it is burned and produces energy, or to fat cells where it contributes to their deposition. The speed and quantity of insulin formation depends on the products we consume, their combination and the time they enter the body. The action of glucagon is back to the action of insulin. When the brain realizes that the amount of sugar in the blood drops, glucagon causes the liver to “push” glucose from the fats into the blood, through which it enters the cells and is burned. The formation of insulin affects the hormones of the ovaries, and vice versa. With a high level of insulin with immunity to it (insulin resistance), the woman’s waist begins to grow stout. Such a violation of the reaction to insulin is observed in polycystic ovaries and with a reduced amount of estradiol.


Prolactin is produced by the pituitary gland, with a large amount is the cause of excess weight. Prolactin regulates the formation of milk during lactation. In men and non-pregnant women, its amount is less than 15-20 ng / ml, but in the last trimester of pregnancy the prolactin level rises to 300 ng / ml. In the first few months after childbirth, his level falls, even when the mother continues to breastfeed.

When the level of this hormone exceeds 15-20 ng / ml, the menstrual cycle becomes irregular, the formation of estradiol is suppressed. With prolonged allocation of a large amount of prolactin, menstruation may stop (amenorrhea), and milk (galactorrhea) will start to emanate from the breast. This is clear evidence of a high level of prolactin, which is associated with other problems, often overlooked by doctors – weight gain, breast enlargement, headaches and depression.

Elevated levels of prolactin affect weight by exciting the lactating mother’s appetite, forcing her to consume more calories – for herself and her baby. But if you do not breastfeed, you do not need to eat for two, and as a result, excess food is stored in the body. Prolactin influences weight and by suppressing the work of ovaries producing estradiol and testosterone, which are responsible for active metabolic processes, regulation of the ratio of insulin and glucose and promote the growth of muscles and bones. Bone washing leading to premature osteoporosis also indicates an untreated case of high prolactin levels.

With age and during menopause the amount of this hormone increases, which affects the acquisition of excess weight in middle age. Its increased quantity can also be caused by stress, debilitating exercise, hypothyroidism, stimulation of the nipples and a variety of habitual medicines such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Seleksa, luvox, tricyclic antidepressants – pamelor, amitriptyline and others, tagamet, pepsid, neuroleptics Navan, Khaldol, Mallaril and others). Some pituitary formations that produce a lot of prolactin can cause a loss of vision, since these formations, even being benign by nature, put pressure on the optic nerve. If you suspect that you have a high level of prolactin, your doctor will offer you a simple blood test. For a more accurate result, the test should be performed from 7 to 8 am.


Leptin – a newly discovered protein, produced in fat cells, plays an important role in regulating the amount of fat and their distribution in the body. The isolation of leptin is disrupted in middle age and during menopause, so it also affects weight gain. Its name comes from the Greek word “leptos”, which means “subtle”. Leptin is produced in fat cells, but circulates in the blood and tells the brain about the amount of fat mass. Affecting the brain, leptin maintains a normal amount of glucose. Leptin plays a role in reproductive function. The ability to continue the genus is reduced both because of excessive anorexia (lack of appetite), and because of excessive obesity. Patients suffering from these diseases found a high level of leptin and a violation of the regulation of its formation. Researchers believe that leptin helps reduce the amount of food consumed and increase the use of energy, for the development of which it is necessary to burn fat cells.

One of the main functions of leptin is stabilizing synthesis and promoting the release of the neuropeptide U (NPH) into the hypothalamus. The action of the NCP is opposite to that of leptin, it forces us to take more food, reduces energy costs, increases the amount of insulin and cortisol. Leptin also acts with other chemicals in the brain to control changes in the amount of food needed, for example, during pregnancy and feeding. Leptin affects thyroid hormones and adrenaline, which are also involved in the regulation of food intake, metabolic rate and the amount of fat stored.

You probably noticed the difference between the male and female type of obesity in humans and animals. Based on this difference, scientists conclude that estrogen, testosterone and progesterone affect the leptin balance. Studies were conducted on the content of leptin during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and artificial insemination. In the climacteric period, women have an increased fat content and their distribution on the body in the form of an apple, as well as an unhealthy amount of leptin and a malfunctioning of the leptin system. It was hypothesized that in middle age women are less susceptible to leptin and this contributes to gaining excess weight. Resistance to leptin explains, and completeness in the presence of a sufficient amount in the body, as well as resistance to insulin in the syndrome of polycystic ovaries.

Summarizing all this, we can say that with a normal amount of leptin in the body and the susceptibility to it, the fatty deposits are reduced. With a low content of leptin or resistance to it, abdominal fat increases, and also diabetes can develop into 2 types. This relationship is very complex, and we do not have an exact solution to this puzzle. Current research suggests that by finding a substitute for estrogen during menopause, a woman can improve susceptibility to leptin.

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