21 October 2011
Oestrogen works in the brain to keep weight to a healthy level, according to new research.
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center discovered that the hormone regulates energy expenditure, appetite and body weight.
They also found that low levels of oestrogen could lead to a higher risk of obesity.
Dr Deborah Clegg, associate professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study, which was published in the journal Cell Metabolism, said that oestrogen has profound effects on a person's metabolism.
She added: "We hadn't previously thought of sex hormones as being critical regulators of food intake and body weight."
Mice were used to test the effectiveness of the scientists' theory and this resulted in those that were lacking in the sex hormone struggling to maintain a steady weight.
It was found that female mice lacking oestrogen receptor alpha - a molecule that sends signals to neurons - in those parts of the brain became obese and were more at risk of developing obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Similar results were seen in male mice, but the female animals showed higher changes in the analysis.
Oestrogen is used as part of some oral contraceptives, in oestrogen replacement therapy for postmenopausal women and also in hormone replacement therapy for transgender women.
By Jeanette Royston.
Clegg, Deborah, et al., "The role of estrogen in postmenopausal women continues to remain uncertain", Cell Metabolism, October 2011.
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