Maintaining a healthy weight can be a struggle at any age. However, most people experience a more pronounced struggle with weight between the ages of 35 and 50. During this time, the major hormones controlling metabolism and fat deposition tend to be significantly out of balance While nutrition, exercise and lifestyle are critical elements to maintaining proper weight, replacing and optimizing hormonal balance due to perimenopause, menopause and andropause, can be a vital component to success in maintaining a healthy weight.
The principal hormones responsible for weight gain are insulin, cortisol, and thyroid.
Cortisol: Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands in response to physical or emotional stress. Cortisol regulates blood sugar and works with insulin. Cortisol elevates blood glucose and insulin drives blood sugar into the cells which cause fat deposition. Cortisol also increases appetite in order to provide calories for energy production. When cortisol levels remain elevated in response to intense or chronic stress, high blood sugar and abdominal weight gain.
Insulin and Insulin Resistance: Insulin is secreted by the pancreas in response to sugar intake. It functions to drive sugar into cells for use as a source of energy. Excess sugar is converted into fat and stored in the cells. Insulin resistance is an inability of some of the body’s cells to respond to insulin. This can develop for various reasons such as, obesity, lack of physical activity, genetics, stress, certain medications and pregnancy. To compensate, the pancreas secretes more insulin in an attempt to keep blood sugar levels normal. Eventually, this results in excess blood levels of insulin (hyperinsulimia) which leads to increased fat storage in insulin-dependent areas such as the lower abdomen, thighs and under the arms.
Thyroid: With advancing age,thyroid hormone function declines. Low levels of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) can cause weight gain by decreasing the body’s metabolic rate.
Other hormones which can also contribute to weight gain include:
Estrogen: Loss of estrogen in women causes a change in body shape, usually a loss of hip and thigh weight with deposition of fat in the abdomen. When estrogen levels fall, the body creates estrogen from other sources such as fat. Because estrogen is produced in fat cells, excess calories from fat in order to raise the estrogen level.
Progesterone: During perimenopause and menopause when progesterone levels fall, there may be insufficient amounts of progesterone to balance the effects of estrogen. This causes weight gain because the diuretic effect of progesterone is overpowered by the fluid retaining effects of estrogen
Testosterone: One of the functions of testosterone is to build and maintain muscle. Muscle cells burn calories and keep the rate of metabolism high. A fall in the level of testosterone will result in loss of muscle mass and a slowing of the metabolic rate, both of which trigger weight gain. Testosterone declines most significantly during menopause and andropause.
In men, low testosterone and high cortisol levels cause an increase in body fat (especially abdominal fat), and a decrease of muscle mass. This increase in abdominal fat escalates hormonal imbalance by causing the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. Low testosterone also causes low energy, leading to less physical activity and weight gain.
As discussed above, the imbalance of several hormones in both men and women is involved in weight gain and the inability to lose weight.Balancing and optimizing hormones along with proper diet, stress management, neutraceutical supplementation and exercise can help you achieve maximum weight loss and sustained weight maintenance.