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23 July 2003

Hormones involved in obesity and anorexia

Too low testosterone levels in anorexic women lead to lower bone density, stored fat might be mobilised by a factor produced by stored fat cells, and oestrogen plays a role in male obesity. These new facts came to light in three new studies.

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Too low testosterone levels in anorexic women lead to lower bone density, stored fat might be mobilised by a factor produced by stored fat cells, and oestrogen plays a role in male obesity. These new facts came to light in three new studies.

The three international studies, which were presented at the 83rd Annual Meeting of The Endocrine Society, in Denver, USA, examine the causes of obesity and the effects of anorexia nervosa on the human body.

The three studies showed:

  • Massuchusetts researchers discovered that testosterone levels are significantly lower (due to abnormal ovarian function) in women with anorexia compared with the healthy women. In addition, the low testosterone levels directly correlated with low bone density at many of the skeletal sites. Researchers now understand that low levels of testosterone may contribute to low bone density in women with anorexia nervosa.
  • British researchers from Birmingham found that two factors produced from fat cells (stored fat) have a definite effect on fat storage. One factor (known as IGF-1) directly increased the amount of stored fat, but decreased the amount of cortisol, while the second factor (known as TNF-alpha) decreased stored fat and increased the amount of cortisol. This new understanding of stored fat may ultimately lead to new treatments for obesity.
  • Researchers and endocrinologists at the University of Illinois presented a study that examined the relationship between oestrogen, one of its receptors and obesity in male mice. Obesity generally develops in animals when they are either eating too much or exercising too little. We now know that oestrogen receptor alpha is important in regulating the burning and storing of fat. This study is the first to demonstrate that oestrogen receptors are important in regulating the development of obesity in males. Future studies must focus on explaining why oestrogen signalling is important for a person's overall health. - (HealthScoutNews)

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