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Hormones key to dropping excess weight



To improve body composition and achieve optimal health, balancing your hormones are critical to short- and long-term success.

There are seven main hormones involved.  Insulin, the biggest culprit, was discussed last month. 

            IGF-1 is the only dependable indicator of bioavailable growth hormone in the human body.  In a healthy person, IGF-1 levels are 100 times insulin levels.  When there is ample supply of IGF-1, manufactured and released by the liver, there is less need for insulin. 

In healthy individuals, insulin levels are very low between meals, in unhealthy people, insulin will be high because IGF-1 is low. Exercise has a powerful effect on increasing growth hormone, and therefore IGF-1 levels.

            Cortisol is secreted with perceived stress.  In prehistoric times, cortisol increased blood sugar to physically help the stressed individual fight or flee; insulin was not needed for the blood sugar rise because a physical response was necessary. 

            Today, however, most stress is mental; cortisol increases blood sugar, which raises insulin, thereby increasing fat storage.  With middle age and obesity, DHEA drops, leading to lower IGF-1 levels, more insulin and more fat.

            Androgens (androstenedione, DHEA testosterone, and possibly progesterone) are the anti-fat hormones.  They oppose cortisol and insulin.  When androgens are optimal, as in adolescence, the tendency to get fat is less likely. 

            Androgens, reaching their peaks in early adulthood for both males and females, decline slightly each year after 25.  Obesity is caused by increased body insulin and cortisol with a fall in androgens.

            Estrogen can contribute to obesity in some females when hormonal levels are higher than normal, which can raise insulin and lower androgens.  One example is the estrogen-induced weight gain from birth control pills.  When estrogen levels are high, however, IGF-1 release is inhibited.

            Thyroid optimal function is critical to metabolism.  Make sure that your thyroid is operating efficiently, or losing fat will be an uphill battle. 

            Epinephrine is necessary to activate cortisol and thyroid receptors to maintain normal metabolism.  Epinephrine deficiency may result from hypochlorhydria (insufficient stomach HCl), leading to poor disassembly of proteins, and a deficiency of available amino acids such as phenylalanine or tyrosine, necessary for production of epinephrine. 

            The second cause of epinephrine deficiency is shortages of vitamins and co-factors, necessary for its biosynthesis.


Dr. Dennis Godby, Doctor of Naturopathy, Sutter Medical Foundation.

He may be reached online or at his Sacramento Office (916) 446-2591.



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