Obesity is caused by an imbalance in energy intake and energy expenditure which can be influenced by an imbalance of hormones (chemical messengers that regulate processes in our body that are secreted by the endocrine system) that results in abnormal metabolism. Abnormal metabolism leads to increased hunger, and the accumulation of body fat.
How the Endocrine System Affects Weight Management
The endocrine system controls some aspects of metabolism and hormone production and therefore can play a role in a patient’s weight by influencing appetite, fat accumulation, blood sugar, and energy levels. However, in most patients who suffer from obesity no clear hormonal issues exist and the treatment must focus on diet, exercise, behavior modification, medications, and at times, weight loss surgery. Because obesity can be the result of problems within the endocrine system, as well as be the cause of problems developing in the endocrine system such as diabetes, patients with obesity are often referred to an endocrinologist.
How Hormones Affect Obesity
In addition to an overproduction or deficiency of hormones, an incorrect reaction to a certain hormone can result in weight gain.
Some endocrine system problems that can contribute to obesity include:
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Excessive glucocorticoid
- Hypothalamic dysfunction
- Growth hormone deficiency
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Some specific hormones that can affect weight are:
- Leptin: Produced by adipose (fat) cells, this hormone regulates weight by suppressing the appetite. Patients can be leptin resistant and become extremely overweight because the brain never receives the signal to stop eating.
- Insulin: Produced by the pancreas, insulin regulates blood sugar levels, carbohydrates, and the metabolism of fat. Obesity can contribute to insulin resistance and result in type 2 diabetes.
- Sex hormones: Estrogen (female sex hormone) and testosterone (male sex hormone) levels are associated with body fat distribution. When hormone levels fluctuate, such as during menopause, fat distribution can change.
- Growth hormone: The growth hormone produced by the pituitary gland affects metabolism. A growth hormone deficiency can lead to fat accumulation.
Obesity may lead to many medical complications. These include Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and some forms of cancer. The incidence of Type 2 Diabetes is increasing in epidemic proportions in the United States. Diabetes can result in damage to vital organs and blood vessels which can lead to blindness, kidney disease, amputations, heart attack, and stroke. Treating excessive weight before it leads to Type 2 Diabetes can greatly improve your health and prevent more serious complications in the future. Even small amounts of weight loss in patients with Type 2 Diabetes can lead to great improvements in outcome. There are many new diabetes medications that not only improve diabetes control but can lead to beneficial weight loss.
At Endocrine Associates of Dallas we offer comprehensive scientific and individualized obesity treatment by:
- identifying and treating any secondary conditions that are contributing to excessive weight gain
- assisting with lifestyle changes, such as dietary and exercise programs
- diagnosing and treating any complications of obesity
- working as a team with other specialists such as dietitians and weight loss surgeons if needed-using weight loss medications if needed
For those who are significantly overweight, our Dallas office offers Optifast®, a cost-effective, medically supervised full meal replacement diet with live and on-demand online nutrition, lifestyle modification, and virtual fitness instruction. In the Plano office, the Ideal Protein program is available. This is a comprehensive 4 phase ketotic diet and lifestyle program that is designed to lose fat while maintaining muscle mass. Your weight loss journey will be closely supervised by a weight loss counselor.
Dr. Heidi Shea is the Director of the Diabetes Education Center at Endocrine Associates of Dallas. Learn more about our Ideal Protein program and nonsurgical weight loss.
Thank you from all of us at Endocrine Associates of Dallas & Plano.