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Hormone Levels in Teens May Be Culprit in Weight Gain

Weight gain in teens

You’ve likely never heard of “spexin.” But it could be a key for researchers in finding a better way to control weight in obese teenagers.


Excess weight for most of us is a simple matter – we eat too many calories and we do not get enough exercise. But for some, it is the result of a biological imbalance that isn’t well understood yet by researchers.

Adipose tissue (our fat cells) are not only a storage for “fuel”, but are also metabolically active “organs”, producing an array of hormone-like factors that affect our ability to maintain balance. Visceral fat also pumps out chemicals called cytokines which can increase our risk of disease.

Several of these known factors are researched as targets for pharmaceuticals that can help our bodies fight these unwanted effects and thus lose excess weight. And new discoveries come every day for new areas of research. Such is the case of “spexin”.

Spexin is a hormone involved in regulating the body’s fat mass and energy balance. When we have too little of this hormone, it can result in weight gain beginning at an early age.

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Seema Kumar MD of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN and a team of researchers analyzed spexin levels in the blood of 51 obese and 18 normal-weight teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18. Those having the lowest levels of spexin were more than 5 times more likely to be overweight or obese than those with the highest levels.

Obesity affects about 17% of children in the US, per The Endocrine Society’s Facts and Figures report. Childhood obesity is associated with an estimated $14.1 billion dollars in healthcare costs each year.

"Since this is a cross-sectional study, more research is needed to explore the physiological significance of spexin, how it may be involved in the development of childhood obesity and whether it can be used to treat or manage the condition," says Dr. Kumar.

Journal Reference:
Seema Kumar, Jobayer Hossain, Nicole Nader, Roxana Aguirre, Swetha Sriram, P. Babu Balagopal. Decreased Circulating Levels of Spexin in Obese Children. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2016; jc.2016-1177 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2016-1177

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