The Link Between Sex and Fat

By David Blyweiss, M.D.,

September 11, 2013

  • Sex hormones can make you fat
  • Menopausal women don’t just gain weight
  • The “double-whammy” for men…

This is the fourth of a 4-part series on hormones. This series will give you a deep understanding of hormones and how they affect belly fat.

Over the past few issues we’ve talked about several different hormones that could cause excess belly-fat and weight gain.

But I have to admit, when middle-age spread starts to creep up, most people automatically think of estrogen and testosterone. And they aren’t wrong. Both of these hormones contribute to abdominal weight gain.

In the case of women, estrogen levels drop during menopause. And it’s right around this point in time a lot of women start noticing an increase in belly fat.

Men notice a similar trend as their testosterone levels decline. But men have another problem most of them aren’t even aware of. You see, it’s not unusual for a man’s estrogen levels to rise as he ages.

This is a double whammy, because it leads excess belly fat, loss of muscle strength and the development of breast tissue that women often refer to as “man-boobs.”

Here are some great tips for both sexes that will help you rein in that expanding waistline. Let’s start with the women…

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Here’s something you might find interesting: While it’s a common belief that menopause causes women to pack on the pounds, this isn’t exactly true.

Research shows reduced production of estrogen doesn’t necessarily change overall weight. Instead, it redistributes the way your fat is stored.

When estrogen levels drop, body fat is redistributed from the hips, thighs and buttocks into the abdomen. And that’s exactly where you don’t want it!

So why do so many women gain weight during menopause if it isn’t the estrogen?

Some researchers believe it may be due to sleep disturbances, which are quite common during the “change of life.” If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it disrupts your hunger hormones. Leptin, which suppresses appetite, is decreased while hunger stimulating ghrelin is increased. (Click thru to part 1 for more on leptin and ghrelin.)

So not only do fat stores move into the belly, but all of those sleepless nights could add extra weight by making you even hungrier!

But there is a remedy for you…

For the most natural solution, I recommend supplementing with DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone.) This is a precursor to estrogen, so it stimulates your body to naturally produce estrogen on its own. Women can safely take 5 mg daily to start.

You can also try a natural licorice supplement. Certain components of licorice have estrogen-like activities. It can even reduce the risk of breast cancer. And in some studies it has also been shown to reduce testosterone levels in women.

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I also suggest working with a natural medicine physician. It’s important to find one who is familiar with a wide range of hormone solutions. This includes natural supplements and bio-identical hormones and compounding prescriptions. That way you’ll have a full range of options to choose from and a knowledgeable professional to guide you.

And let’s not forget about men. When it comes to estrogen and testosterone, they have their own worries…

As men age two things happen: Testosterone levels decline and estrogen levels tend to rise.

This is a double-whammy that most men have a hard time accepting. They are often shocked to learn they have excess estrogen. But estrogen dominance is a very big concern today for men. That’s because men are exposed to way too much of this female hormone than is good for them. (See my article on this here.)

So your goal is to reduce estrogen levels while simultaneously increasing levels of “free” testosterone.

Men can help eliminate excess estrogens by eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens and cauliflower all contain an ingredient called DIM (diindolylmethane.) It helps balance reduce estrogen dominance. DIM is also available in supplement form. About 100 mg. daily should do the trick.

Resveratrol can also help reduce estrogen levels. It’s a potent anti-aging supplement that prevents estrogens from binding to estrogen receptors. And new research on its close cousin, pterostilbine says it can pack a powerful punch. (It turns out pterostilbine is 8 times more bioavalable than resveratrol alone!)

You can get some resveratrol from grapes and wine. And pterostilbene is plentiful in both grapes and blueberries. But you probably won’t get enough to block estrogen formation. That’s why I suggest supplementing with combination formula containing 200 mg. of trans-resveratrol and 25 mg. trans-pterostilbene daily.

And what about increasing testosterone levels? The key here is to allow more of it to roam free throughout your body. And you can do that by lowering levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG.)

Vitamin D has been shown to increase free testosterone by 20%. I prefer a Vitamin D supplement that contains D3. 1,000 to 2,000 a day should do the trick. However, if you’ve been diagnosed as vitamin D deficient, I recommend up to 5,000 IU daily.

Tongkat ali inhibits SHBG. This allows more free testosterone to remain in the bloodstream. You can kick up your testosterone levels with 100 mg daily.

Forskolin has been shown to increase testosterone values in men with testosterone deficiency. In one study 500 mg. daily increased free testosterone levels in overweight and obese men.

And don’t forget to eat plenty of fresh, healthy foods, get a full night’s sleep and exercise regularly. All of these can help improve your hormonal balance, and help bust that belly fat out of your life for good!

Tamir S, et al. Estrogenic and antiproliferative properties of glabridin from licorice in human breast cancer cells. Cancer Res. 2000 Oct 15;60(20):5704-9.

Estrogen-Like Effects of Licorice. Natural Standard. February 2010

Pilz S, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res. 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5. Epub 2010 Dec 10.

Mohd Effendy N, et al. Eurycoma longifolia: Medicinal Plant in the Prevention and Treatment of Male Osteoporosis due to Androgen Deficiency. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:125761. Epub 2012 Jul 15.

Godard MP, Johnson BA, Richmond SR. Body composition and hormonal adaptations associated with forskolin consumption in overweight and obese men. Obes Res. 2005 Aug;13(8):1335-43