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Hormones and Weight Loss: An Overview of Hormonal Weight Gain and Loss

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  Published on April 14th, 2020
  Reading time: 3 minutes
  Last modified January 21st, 2023
The interplay between hormones and weight loss.

If you want to lose weight, you’ve probably heard there is a connection between your hormones and your weight. You don’t need a medical degree to understand the basics of hormones and weight loss. Let’s take a look at a brief overview of hormones that may affect weight loss and how they work in the body.


Often referred to as the hunger hormone, ghrelin signals to the brain that it’s time to eat. In animal studies, researchers showed the correlation between ghrelin injections and weight gain. [1] [2]


Counter to ghrelin, we have leptin. Commonly called the satiety hormone, leptin lets the body know that you’ve eaten enough. It helps to produce that feeling of fullness during a meal. [3]

Low levels of leptin are a red flag for your body, as this is a sign of starvation. Even if you aren’t truly starving, your body doesn’t know the difference. In response to low leptin levels, the body releases ghrelin, spiking your appetite and encouraging you to eat.

Peptide YY

Ghrelin and leptin are the most talked about hormones when it comes to weight management, but there are others that are equally as helpful, including peptide YY (PYY). 

Once you finish a meal, your body releases PYY from the small intestine. Like leptin, it signals to your brain that you’ve eaten enough and to turn off your appetite. [4]


Adiponectin is a protein hormone that is found in adipose or fatty tissue. It plays an important role in regulating glucose levels as well as breaking down fatty acids. Recent studies have found that adiponectin also supports and protects several weight management processes including energy metabolism and inflammation.

Too much adipose tissue and you’re likely to have lower levels of adiponectin and a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases such as diabetes. [5] [6]


Estrogen is one of two primary sex hormones that you’ll find in both men and women. The difference is that estrogen is normally found in larger amounts in women.

Estrogen ramps up during puberty and plays an essential role in a variety of processes including reproductive health and the onset of the menstrual cycle. It’s also a key hormone for weight management. 

Studies show that low estrogen levels correlate with weight gain, especially after menopause when level plummet. [7]


The second primary sex hormone is testosterone, which is dominant in men. It spikes during puberty and it’s responsible for bodily changes such as a deeper voice, body hair, and sexual organ development.

Testosterone is a known fat-burning hormone. Higher levels of testosterone correlate with lower levels of bodyfat. If a man’s testosterone levels are too low, he’ll experience symptoms such as weight gain and pseudogynecomastia (the development of male breasts). [8]


Cortisol is a stress hormone that is integral to the fight-or-flight response. Cortisol is linked with insulin, a hormone that helps your body utilize or store glucose. Too much stress can lead to elevated cortisol levels and insulin resistance, which increases your risk for weight gain and cardiovascular disease. [9]

Thyroid Hormone 

Finally, we have the thyroid hormone, which is most associated with regulating metabolism. hyperthyroidism (higher than normal levels of thyroid hormones) is linked to weight loss, whereas hypothyroidism (lower than normal levels of thyroid hormones) is linked to weight gain.  If you are suffering from hyperthyroidism, balancing your thyroid hormone levels may be the key to weight loss. [10] 

David James Sautter is a fitness writer with over a decade of experience in the industry. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Secondary Education, he earned certifications as a NASM-certified personal trainer, NASM-certified fitness nutrition specialist, and ACE-certified sports conditioning specialist. Merging his two passions, he has been the driving creative force behind articles, e-books, and training guides that cover a range of health and fitness topics with an emphasis on the ketogenic diet.



Druce MR, Wren AM, Park AJ, Milton JE, Patterson M, Frost G, Ghatei MA, Small C, Bloom SR. Ghrelin increases food intake in obese as well as lean subjects.Int J Obes (Lond). 2005 Sep;29(9):1130-6.


Tschöp M, Smiley DL, Heiman ML. Ghrelin induces adiposity in rodents. Nature.2000 Oct 19;407(6806):908-13.


Huang L, Li C. Leptin: a multifunctional hormone. Cell Res. 2000 Jun;10(2):81-92.


Karra E, Chandarana K, Batterham RL. The role of peptide YY in appetite regulation and obesity. J Physiol. 2009;587(1):19–25. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2008.164269.


Achari AE, Jain SK. Adiponectin, a Therapeutic Target for Obesity, Diabetes, and Endothelial Dysfunction.Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(6):1321. Published 2017 Jun 21. doi:10.3390/ijms18061321.


Nigro E, Scudiero O, Monaco ML, et al. New insight into adiponectin role in obesity and obesity-related diseases. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:658913. doi:10.1155/2014/658913.


Lizcano F, Guzmán G. Estrogen Deficiency and the Origin of Obesity during Menopause. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:757461. doi:10.1155/2014/757461.


Traish AM. Testosterone and weight loss: the evidence. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2014;21(5):313–322. doi:10.1097/MED.0000000000000086.


Kamba A, Daimon M, Murakami H, et al. Association between Higher Serum Cortisol Levels and Decreased Insulin Secretion in a General Population. PLoS One. 2016;11(11):e0166077. Published 2016 Nov 18. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0166077.


Tiller D, Ittermann T, Greiser KH, Meisinger C, Agger C, Hofman A, Thuesen B, Linneberg A, Peeters R, Franco O, Heier M, Kluttig A, Werdan K, Stricker B, Schipf S, Markus M, Dörr M, Völzke H, Haerting J. Association of Serum Thyrotropin with Anthropometric Markers of Obesity in the General Population.Thyroid. 2016 Sep;26(9):1205-14. doi: 10.1089/thy.2015.0410. Epub 2016 Aug 11.

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