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‘Why am I not losing weight?’

Medical reasons for women’s weight problems and how to get tested

Mar 04,2018 - Last updated at Mar 04,2018

Photo courtesy of Family Flavours magazine

By Dr Renad Seheimat

Clinical Pathologist 

& Laboratory Medicine Specialist


Are you finding weight difficult to lose? Even with exercise and a restricted-calorie diet, are you still gaining weight? Well, it is incredibly hard to win against an obstacle you do not know is there! Your own body hormones may simply be way out of balance. Maybe it is time to visit the lab for a check-up. Here are some of the important blood tests for resolving stubborn weight.


Your thyroid hormones


An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is generally associated with a low metabolic rate and some weight gain. The cause of the weight gain is also complex and not always related to excess fat accumulation. Most of the extra weight gained in hypothyroid individuals is due to excess accumulation of salt and water. Massive weight gain is rare. In general, two to five kilogrammes of body weight may be attributable to the thyroid and if weight gain is the only symptom of underactive thyroid, it is less likely that the weight gain is solely caused by the thyroid.


Your insulin levels


The most significant factor in fat storage is the level of insulin in the blood. This is such a key point to understand. Insulin is known to be a fat building hormone, so excess levels are sure to guarantee fat accumulation in the body. Not only does insulin result in fat storage but it also prevents the breakdown of fat as an energy source. Insulin resistance (when insulin levels are sufficiently high over a prolonged period of time, causing the body’s own sensitivity to the hormone to be reduced) increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Hence, it makes sense to get your fasting blood sugar and insulin levels tested. Consuming complex carbohydrates helps control insulin levels and makes losing weight easier. In some cases, a medication is prescribed to improve insulin sensitivity, promoting the use of sugar for energy production.


Your sex hormones


High levels of testosterone hormone levels are seen in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). If you are struggling with weight and have irregular periods or excess hair growth, it would be wise to visit your gynaecologist, who will check your testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone.


Vitamins and minerals


I also recommend checking your iron, zinc, vitamin D and B 12 levels. They are responsible for helping your body use oxygen to burn sugar and produce energy. Adequate intake of vitamins and minerals is important to ensure optimum energy production, making exercise and weight loss easier.


Stress hormones


Chronic stress leads to prolonged periods of high cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones that increase our sugar level and fat storage, which in turn may lead to insulin resistance and weight gain around the middle of the body, further hindering weight loss. Keep in mind it also increases cravings, especially for sugary foods. You can check your cortisol levels in the lab with a blood test or saliva analysis.



Reprinted with permission from Family Flavours magazine

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