Hormones are signaling molecules that play a role in a variety of bodily functions.
Hormones are released into the bloodstream by glands such as the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal glands. They then go to tissues and organs.
Hormones play a role in almost all aspects of health, including sexual function, growth and development, mood, appetite, and metabolism.
As a result, hormonal dysregulation, which occurs when your body produces too little or too much of a hormone, can have a big influence on your health, including your weight.
Hormones are involved in fullness and hunger
Hormones assist your body to maintain energy levels by regulating your hunger.
Hunger is triggered by certain hormones. Others indicate that you’ve eaten enough to eat and prevent you from eating more.
Weight gain or loss can be caused by an imbalance in appetite-controlling hormones.
When your body requires food, the endocrine and neurological systems initiate a series of events that stimulate food intake.
Gastrointestinal hormones, such as motilin, activate a cycle of contractions involved in the development of hunger, known as the migrating motor complex.
The following is a list of some of the most important hormones and other chemicals involved in appetite stimulation:
- Ghrelin. Ghrelin is referred to as the “hunger hormone.” It activates the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls appetite. Ghrelin is involved in the sleep-wake cycle, glucose metabolism, and other processes in addition to influencing food intake.
- Motilin. The hormone motilin is generated in the small intestine. When you’re fasting, motilin causes your intestines to contract, signaling your brain that you need to eat.
- Y-peptide (neuropeptide) (NPY). The brain releases NPY, a peptide that is a short chain of amino acids, to enhance food intake. Hormones such as ghrelin and leptin control NPY production and release.
- Protein that is related to agouti (AgRp). Another peptide generated by the brain is AgRp. Ghrelin stimulates its production, and it serves to boost food intake.
Satiety (fullness) hormones
Some of the primary hormones that cause satiety and restrict food intake are as follows:
- Cholecystokinin is a hormone that is produced by the body (CCK). CCK is a hormone produced by small intestine cells in response to luminal nutrients, particularly fat and protein. It suppresses appetite by triggering satiety centers in the brain, as well as gallbladder contraction and pancreatic secretions, all of which are important for digestion.
- Glucagon-like peptide-1 is a peptide that is similar to glucagon (GLP-1). GLP-1 is a hormone generated by gut cells in response to nutrition intake. GLP-1 reduces food intake and increases fullness by slowing stomach emptying and interacting with the brain.
- YY, a pancreatic peptide (Peptide YY). Another hormone produced in the small intestine is peptide YY. It’s secreted in reaction to food consumption and binds to brain receptors, reducing hunger. It also causes food to travel more slowly through the digestive tract.
- Leptin. Leptin is a hormone that fat cells and other body organs secrete. It’s best recognized for being a fullness hormone. Leptin suppresses the hunger-inducing peptides NPY and AgRp while increasing fullness-inducing peptides, resulting in a decrease in appetite.
- Insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It regulates blood sugar levels and maintains energy balance. Following a meal, insulin levels rise. Insulin works with the brain to help you eat less.
- Obestatin. Obestatin is a hormone that suppresses the appetite. It counteracts the hunger-inducing effects of ghrelin. Scientists are still investigating obestatin’s effects on hunger and fullness, and more research is needed.
This is not an exhaustive list. The peptide nesfatin-1 and the hormone oxyntomodulin are two more molecules that have a role in appetite control.
Hormones influence body weight
Certain hormones in the body are in charge of fat storage and breakdown. Hormones also have an impact on energy expenditure, or how many calories your body burns each day.
As a result, changes in hormone levels can cause weight gain or reduction, as well as the buildup of body fat in specific locations.
The thyroid, for example, secretes hormones that are involved in metabolic regulation.
The thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone when it is hyperactive. This causes the body to become hypermetabolic, which means it burns more calories. Hyperthyroidism is the medical term for this condition.
Conversely, a thyroid that is underactive, as seen by low thyroid hormone levels, results in decreased energy expenditure. Hypothyroidism is the medical term for this condition.
This explains why people with hyperthyroidism may lose weight while those with hypothyroidism may gain.
Insulin is another hormone that has the ability to influence body weight.
Insulin is required for cells to utilize glucose for energy and store it as glycogen for later use. Insulin is also necessary for the storage of energy as fat and the prevention of fat breakdown in order to maintain body weight.
It’s crucial to keep insulin levels within a certain range. Insulin resistance occurs when cells stop responding correctly to insulin as a result of chronically increased insulin levels.
According to human and animal research, this can cause problems with hunger and fullness hormones, as well as increased fat accumulation by organs like the liver and a slowed metabolism.
Cortisol is a glucocorticoid (steroid hormone) that plays a key function in the stress response in your body. Chronically high cortisol levels, on the other hand, might lead to weight gain.
Cortisol causes fat to be redistributed to the abdomen and increases hunger, particularly for energy-dense, highly palatable foods high in fat and sugar.
Chronically stressed adults and people with Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder that causes cortisol levels to rise, have cortisol dysregulation.
Other hormones that affect body weight and fat distribution include glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide, leptin, asprosin, and estrogen
Hormones can be altered by medical conditions, age, and weight gain
Many things can influence hormone levels, including:
- body mass index
- diagnoses in medicine
Many hormones are affected by high body fat levels, as found in people who are overweight or obese, including:
Obese men, for example, are more likely than men of normal weight to have low testosterone levels.
The loss of a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which transports testosterone to the body’s tissues, is mostly to blame. Insulin resistance causes the decrease of SHBG in obese people.
In men, low testosterone levels are linked to an increase in body fat, particularly in the abdomen, and a loss of muscular mass.
Obesity is significantly linked to anomalies in the fullness hormone leptin, such as hyperleptinemia (leptin overproduction) and leptin resistance (the body’s failure to respond to leptin effectively).
Reduced sensitivity to leptin, which regulates satiety, may lead to excessive calorie consumption and weight gain.
High levels of insulin and asprosin, a hormone that promotes appetite, are also linked to obesity.
Menopausal women are more likely to accumulate body fat, particularly in the middle.
This could be attributed to hormonal changes that occur at this age, such as a decrease in estrogen levels, which is linked to lower energy expenditure and metabolic inefficiency.
Medical diseases such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and diabetes can also cause hormonal imbalances and affect body weight.
Weight gain is also prevalent in people who are taking hormone therapy to change their gender.
Remember that hormone levels can be altered by a variety of different variables, such as pregnancy, drug use, and so on.
Lifestyle and diet can affect hormones
Your lifestyle might have a big impact on the hormones that control your weight.
Hormonal variations have been linked to diet, activity levels, and chronic stress.
The foods and beverages you consume on a regular basis can have a big impact on your overall health, especially your hormonal health.
Hormonal dysregulation has been linked to diets high in ultra-processed foods, added sugar, and refined carbs, according to research.
Diets high in added sugar, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, have been associated with insulin resistance and increased leptin levels, for example.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that high-protein, moderate- to low-carbohydrate diets may have a better influence on fullness and hunger hormones than higher-carb, lower-protein diets.
Diets high in ultra-processed foods and added sugar may enhance hunger hormones such as NPY while blunting the action of fullness hormones such as CCK. These side effects could lead to binge eating and weight gain.
Furthermore, eating a diet high in ultra-processed foods exposes you to hormone-disrupting chemicals like phthalates.
These chemicals have been shown to change hormones that control appetite, satiety, and food preferences, as well as promote insulin resistance, all of which can lead to weight gain.
Diet can influence the hormones that influence weight gain in a variety of ways.
In general, for overall health, including hormonal health, a balanced diet rich in whole, minimally processed foods and low in ultra-processed foods and added sugar is preferable.
Other factors that influence hormones
Hormones that regulate body weight can be affected by sleep, activity, and stress.
It is critical to get adequate sleep in order to maintain good health. Hormonal imbalance is linked to not getting enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation has been related to insulin and leptin resistance, as well as changes in hunger hormones, all of which can contribute to an increase in appetite, a decrease in fullness, overeating, and weight gain.
Hormone levels may also be affected by exercise.
Increased physical exercise has been shown to:
- enhance insulin sensitivity in the body boost testosterone levels in men
- lower leptin levels in overweight and obese persons
- enhance fullness hormone response after meals
- Stress management is also necessary for a balanced hormonal response. Chronic stress can affect the hormones that control hunger, leading to an increase in calorie consumption and weight gain.
As a result, stress management is a crucial aspect of achieving optimal hormonal health and maintaining healthy body weight.
The bottom line
Hormones regulate body weight by controlling hunger, fullness, metabolism, and fat distribution.
Diet, lack of sleep, activity levels, body fat percentage, stress exposure, and medical conditions have all been shown to have an impact on hormonal health in studies.
Following a good and balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, detecting underlying medical disorders, controlling stress, and engaging in physical activity are just a few of the scientifically accepted methods for promoting healthy body weight and hormone equilibrium.