How Hormone Imbalance Impacts Weight Gain

How Hormone Imbalance Impacts Weight Gain

Brought to you in partnership with Labrix Clinical Services

Belly fat is a big problem for many people. Love handles aren’t just unattractive; they can be a key indicator of a hormonal imbalance. Abdominal obesity is a health hazard and is worse than carrying weight on the hips or thighs. Extra belly fat may indicate one or more of the following hormonal imbalances:

• Elevated testosterone and/or DHEA in women
• Decreased testosterone in men
• Estrogen dominance (progesterone insufficiency) in men and women
• Adrenal dysfunction in both genders
• A successful program to get rid of this stubborn fat must include proper diet, exercise, sleep and addressing hormone imbalances.

Elevated androgens (testosterone and DHEA) in women are most often an early indicator of evolving or established insulin resistance.

As the body begins to struggle with glucose metabolism, androgens become elevated and contribute to male pattern obesity – the “apple” shape, or belly fat that many women struggle with as they age.

Younger women with PCOS may also struggle with abdominal obesity. This abdominal obesity is especially dangerous as the adipose (fat) cells in this region are more insulin resistant, increasing the risk for developing heart disease and diabetes.

Additionally, abdominal fat cells increase the aromatization of testosterone into estrogen. As estrogen levels rise, so does the tendency to accumulate more abdominal fat, creating a vicious cycle of blood sugar dysregulation and hormone imbalance. Male testosterone levels tend to taper off with aging, obesity and stress, but today men are experiencing testosterone decline much earlier in life. Low testosterone is associated with insulin resistance and with an increased risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Researchers from the University of Washington found that men with low testosterone are more likely to develop a rotund abdomen and other body fat. They also found that testosterone may prompt the loss of body fat when deficient levels are replaced.

Another hormonal factor in weight gain is cortisol; imbalanced levels (both high and low) can be contributory. Researchers at Yale University found slender women who had high cortisol also had more abdominal fat. More results published in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine in 2000 established a link between cortisol and increased storage of abdominal fat. Low cortisol levels contribute to fatigue, cravings, and inefficient thyroid function. These findings support the hypothesis that cortisol secretion might represent a mechanism for the observed association between stress and abdominal fat distribution.

Weight loss is incredibly challenging for most people. While exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes are essential components to any weight loss plan, imbalanced hormones may hinder your patients’ success. Testing for and addressing hormone imbalance provides the missing piece for many weight loss journeys.


Bjorntorp P, et al. Obesity and cortisol. Nutrition. 2000 Oct;16(10):924-36.
Epel ES. et al.Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosom Med. 2000 Sept-Oct;62(5):623-32
Grossmann M. Testosterone and glucose metabolism in men: current concepts and controversies. J Endocrinol. 2014 Jan 27; 220(3):R37-55.
Moyer AE, et al. Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obes Res. 1994 May; 2(3):255-62.
Yale News. Stress May Cause Excess Abdominal Fat in Otherwise Slender Women, Study Conducted at Yale Shows. Sept 22, 2000. Reset Your Hormones to Beat Belly Fat. Natasha Turner ND. Accessed 1/6/14.