Estrogen's secret role in obesity

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Estrogen and obesity

New research on the effects of the female sex hormone estrogen in the brain lend credence to what many women have suspected about the hormonal changes that accompany aging: Menopause can make you fat.

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Scientists long have sought to understand how changes in hormones during menopause could account for the increase in appetite and accompanying weight gain that often occurs among aging women. In a series of animal experiments, Deborah J. Clegg and colleagues showed how estrogen receptors located in the hypothalamus serve as a master switch to control food intake, energy expenditure and body fat distribution. When these receptors are destroyed, the animals immediately begin to eat more food, burn less energy and pack on pounds.

This research seems to support a link between estrogen and regulation of obesity, especially the dangerous accumulation of abdominal fat linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, the researchers said. The findings may also help scientists develop more targeted hormone replacement therapies, capable of stimulating estrogen receptors in one part of the brain or body while dampening it in the next, they added.

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