Paleo Diet: Which Hormone Is Responsible For Obesity?

One of the problems associated with finding a cause as well as an answer for obesity, is that everyone seems to want to pin the blame on a single food, or a single hormone. Some people have blamed carbohydrates on the whole; others h

ave blamed insulin, probably because of its inherent association with carbohydrates.

Which hormone is responsible for Obesity?

Some blame leptin, some blame ghrelin, some just blame their parents….but no matter how you look at it, it’s not realistic for us to try and find a single culprit to blame in the fight against obesity.

Ned Knock, aka “The Health Correlator” posted an article on April 16th 2012, titled “Hormonal Reductionism Is As Myopic As Biochemical Reductionism”, that just happens to be about this very topic. As usual, here’s a few excerpts, but please head over to Ned’s blog for the whole story.

“Biochemistry is very helpful in terms of providing “pieces for the puzzle”, but biochemical reductionism is a problem. Analogous to biochemical reductionism, and perhaps one example of it, is hormonal reductionism – trying to argue that all diet and lifestyle

effects are mediated by a single hormone. A less extreme position, but still myopic, is to argue that all diet and lifestyle effects are mostly mediated by a single hormone.

One of my own “favorite” hormones is adiponectin, which I have been discussing for years in this blog (2). Increased serum adiponectin has been found to be significantly associated with: decreased body fat (particularly decreased visceral fat), decreased risk of developing diabetes type 2, and decreased blood pressure. Adiponectin appears to also have anti-inflammatory and athero-protective properties.”

“Trying to manipulate one single hormone, or build an entire health-improvement approach based on its effects, is myopic. But that is what often happens. Leptin is a relatively recent example.

One reason why biochemistry is so complex, with so many convoluted processes, is that evolution is a tinkerer that is “blind” to complexity. Traits appear at random in populations and spread if they increase reproductive success; even if they decrease survival success, by the way (4).

Evolution is not an engineer, and is not even our “friend” (5). To optimize our health, we need to “hack” evolution.”

Makes you think, doesn’t it? When we’re faced with a standard American diet that is so screwed-up in so many ways, environmental pollution, toxins leaching into our food from containers, pesticides being sprayed upon our food, and a thousand other contributing factors, how can anyone confidently say that there is one hormone that is to blame for allowing these factors to run amok in our

bodies. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again… obesity is a multifactorial problem.

Don’t get me wrong, no-one’s saying that insulin, leptin, ghrelin and all of the rest of the gang aren’t involved or significant, but going all “Gary Taubes” on the situation and blaming Insulin… or going all “Robert Lustig” and blaming fructose for global warming (OK, obesity), is just not realistic at all. Asking which hormone is responsible for obesity is a terribly reductionist question; it’s overly-simplistic. Looking for a single culprit for this complex problem is not going to make us any wiser if you ask me. What do you think?


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Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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3 Responses to Paleo Diet: Which Hormone Is Responsible For Obesity?

  1. Barb May 3, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I agree… I think that there are many factors involved when it comes to hormones and obesity. Heck, for us ladies, even out female hormones play a role in our ability to gain weight quickly and in our inability to shed it reasonably well. Thyroid, insulin, leptin, etc, etc…

    But, how many important hormones have not even been discovered yet?? As the article mentions, even leptin is a recent discovery. I do believe that the body wants to be well, and will attempt to heal and balance itself, despite our environments, medicines and even sometimes, our supposed healthy lifestyles.

    I think that by balancing all of our bodily systems, hormones will fall into line as much as possible. Both the ones we know about, and the ones we don’t.

  2. Morley Robbins May 5, 2012 at 7:19 am

    Well said! Reductionist thinking has created more confusion ( and more mythology, for that matter) in medicine & nutrition over the last 60+ years: Cholesterol… Fat… Calcium… Vit-D… It’s far too easy, as you so aptly point out. The avg human has 100 Trillion cells and runs on an Atonomic Nervous System processor that clips along at 400 Billion bytes/sec. It’s entertaining how Doctors & Nutritionists try to convince us that it’s “one thing…” They haven’t got a clue & lack the integrity to state just that. Humans are the only species on the planet that ask for advise on what to eat… and that just started about 200 yrs ago… Something to reflect on… A votre sante!

    • Barry Cripps May 6, 2012 at 11:51 am

      Thanks for commenting Morley!

      I used to hear you call in to Underground Wellness Radio all the time. I always like to hear what you have to say. Don’t be a stranger! :-)