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Estrogen and Weight Gain:  Which Estrogen Are You Talking About?

Estrogen and weight gain is a popular topic, but most of what you read online doesn't distinguish which estrogen the author is talking about.  This is like talking about dogs and aggression without distinguishing which breed is being talked about.  A dog's level of aggression varies drastically depending on which breed you are talking about and the dog's history and training, at the very least.

As with estrogen:  are you talking about one of the three estrogens made by women's bodies?  Or mixed estrogens?  Or one of the three bioidentical estrogens?  Because each one of these hormones has different actions in the body.  Even the method of delivery for mixed and bioidentical estrogens can vary the effect in your body!

The following three estrogens are made by your body and also available as bioidentical forms of estrogen.  (For more information about bioidentical hormones, see bioidentical hormone therapy

17-beta Estradiol (E2)

Estradiol is the most active estrogen during the years between puberty and menopause.  It has over 400 functions in your body.  Some of these include:  Improves blood sugar and metabolism, keeps your skin looking young, keeps your bones and muscles strong, keeps sexual desire strong and tissues moist, including your vagina and eyes, supports healthy moods and heart.  According to Guyton (1991), “The estrogenic potency of estradiol is 12 times that of estrone and 80 times that of estriol”  (p. 904).

Estrone (E1)

Estrone is thought to be linked to endometrial and breast cancer in older, obese women.  The more body fat you have, the more estrone you will have.

Estriol (E3)

Estriol is the weakest estrogen, and is mostly present during pregnancy.  Estriol is the estrogen normally found in over-the-counter, “natural” estrogen creams.

Estrogen and Weight Gain: Consequences of Less Estradiol at Menopause

According to Vliet (2001), when your estrogen declines at menopause, specifically your estradiol, the effects on your body are numerous:

  • more fat in your abdominal area (belly fat)

  • muscle tissues become weaker and smaller

  • the stress of less estradiol makes cortisol increase (a fat storage hormone)

  • increased risk for insulin resistance

  • insomnia, which leads to less growth hormone (which is produced during sleep) and more cortisol, which creates more fat storage

  • increased cortisol and decreased estradiol affect healthy thyroid function

17-beta Estradiol and Weight Loss

Vliet (2001) also notes that having enough of this form of estrogen will give you:

  • improved insulin sensitivity which improves fat burning

  • better muscle mass and strength which will increase metabolism

  • increased serotonin, which helps prevent cravings

  • increased endorphin activity, which decreases hunger

  • reduced cortisol, which reduces fat storage

  • improved sleep, which helps increase growth hormone

Bioidentical estradiol is generally not available without a prescription in the United States.  As you can see from the numbers from Guyton above, the over the counter creams are not going to do much for you.

The mixed estrogens tend to have less estradiol or forms different than 17-beta estradiol, which is the one your body makes.  If you are concerned about estrogen and weight gain, you are probably better off with a product that has enough of 17-beta estradiol to give you the results listed above.

Related Pages

Progesterone and Weight Gain

Hormone Imbalance

Bioidentical Hormone Therapy

Natural Estrogen Replacement


Guyton, A.MD. (1991). <em>Textbook of medical physiology</em>.     Philadelphia, PA.  W.B. Saunders Company

Vliet, E.L.MD.(2001).  <em>Women, weight, and hormones</em>.  New York, NY.  M. Evans and Company, Inc.

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