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Ever wondered why losing weight and then maintaining your reduced weight is such a tough job? It seems losing weight brings about hormonal changes in the body which increase the appetite and bring back the fat which you had lost with so much difficulty.

Hormones Play an Important Role in Regaining the Weight You Lost After so much Effort

Have you noticed that the extra fat on your body is so stubborn? You starve yourself off your favorite food, spend hours in the gym, and fight those food cravings for ages, only to shed a few inches. And even before you can flaunt your enviable figure, the fat is back to where it belongs.

For a long time, doctors as well as laymen have blamed your unhealthy eating habits for this relapse. However, now a study proves that not all the blame lies with you. Your hormones play an important role in regaining the weight you lost after so much effort.

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A study published in the October issue of the New England Journal of Medicine shows that hormones which stimulate your appetite, increase after diet induced weight loss, and do not revert to their previous state even after a long time. These circulating hormones are the main culprit behind the obesity relapse. Moreover, the obese patients have a higher “set point” of body weight and the body fights back any efforts to reduce the weight beyond this point. Once a person loses weight, many compensatory mechanisms are activated in the body for at least a year, which encourage weight gain.

A Loss of Weight is followed by a Corresponding Increase in Appetite

The study, led by Dr. Joseph Proietto, from the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in Australia, enrolled 50 overweight patients for a 10 week weight loss program. All the patients were without diabetes. They were put on a very low energy diet. The circulating levels of leptin, ghrelin, insulin, and other hormones related to appetite and satiation were measured at three points of the study, namely, at baseline (at the start of the weight loss program), at 10 weeks, i.e. when the program got completed, and one year after the completion of weight loss program. The researchers also measured the desire to eat in each participant at 10 weeks and after one year.

Only 34 participants could complete the 10 week weight loss program in which they lost 30 lbs of weight on an average. At the end of 10 weeks, it was seen that the levels of leptin and insulin showed a significant reduction compared to the baseline levels. There was a significant increase in the levels of ghrelin. These changes in the levels of hormones persisted even after the completion of one year following the weight loss program.


The researchers were surprised to notice that a loss of weight is followed by a corresponding increase in appetite. The urge to eat seemed to increase both at the end of 10 weeks as well as after one year compared to the appetite at the beginning of the study. This increase in appetite led to a regain of the lost weight, even though the participants remained on a maintenance diet.

Hence, the next time you regain weight after losing it through a diet induced weight loss program, blame it on your hormones.

  • “Study Shows Why It’s Hard to Keep Weight Off”, by Gina Kolata, The New York Times, published on October 26, 2011, accessed on November 17, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/27/health/biological-changes-thwart-weight-loss-efforts-study-finds.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss
  • “Long-Term Persistence of Hormonal Adaptations to Weight Loss”, by Joseph Proietto, et al, New England Journal of Medicine, published on October 27, 2011, accessed on November 17, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1105816
  • “Hunger Hormones May Be Dieters' Worst Enemy”, by Kristina Fiore, Medpage Today, published on October 26, 2011, accessed on November 17, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/Obesity/29298?xid=ob_&utm_source=outbrain&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=endo_rss
  • Photo courtesy of Alpha by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/3313987764