If you’ve tried losing weight with diet and exercise and achieved less-than-desirable results, you may be looking for medical alternatives — and there are many. One of the increasingly popular weight loss methods is hormone therapy or hormone replacement therapy.
This article will explore hormone replacement therapy, its effectiveness, risks and benefits, viable alternatives, and more.
Understanding the Basics: What is Hormone Therapy?
As we age, our bodies begin mitigating the production of hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Hormone therapy involves elevating specific hormone levels with synthetic or bioidentical (chemically consistent with the hormones your body produces) supplements. Elevating the levels of these hormones can affect weight gain, metabolism, mood, and more.
The Connection Between Hormones and Weight Regulation
Among other effects, reduced estrogen levels can lead to an increase in the fat-to-muscle ratio. This is particularly noticeable around the abdomen. As testosterone production gradually declines in men, there’s a similar effect. It becomes more difficult for men to maintain muscle mass, and they begin to accumulate fat around the abdomen.
By increasing the levels of testosterone in men, it becomes easier for them to maintain or build muscle. Clinical research suggests that testosterone therapy can lead to sustainable weight and fat reduction. Estrogen replacement therapy is particularly relevant for women who are going through menopause — a period where estrogen and progesterone levels begin to drop significantly. These changes lead to muscle loss in the midsection, which, in turn, promotes the accumulation of fat.
Hormone Replacement Treatments
No one should consider hormone therapy without first speaking to their primary care physician. There are numerous factors that can make a patient a poor candidate for hormone replacement therapy. Additionally, patients need regular blood testing to ensure their blood levels are consistent with the treatment plan. Physicians should adjust dosages in accordance with lab testing results.
There are several delivery methods for hormone therapy. They include:
- Injecting the hormones directly into the bloodstream
- Oral administration through pills
- Patches that release hormones into the bloodstream through the skin
- Gels and sprays that are directly applied to the skin
- Time-released implants that are placed underneath the skin
- Vaginal estrogen that is inserted into the vagina
Some patients will have more than one option for delivery, while others may require a specific delivery method.
Studies on Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy is the subject of many research projects, and many of those have proven the effectiveness of HRT on weight loss or fat reduction. Here are a few of the studies on testosterone therapy and the corresponding findings.
- In one 2005 study, entitled “The Effect of Hormone Replacement Therapy on Body Composition, Body Fat Distribution, and Insulin Sensitivity in Menopausal Women: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial,” researchers found that there was a reduction in insulin sensitivity, which is counter to the objective of fat reduction. With all other things being equal, greater insulin sensitivity improves the body’s ability to control blood sugar.
- A 2000 paper published in ScienceDirect entitled “Weight gain and hormone replacement therapy: are women’s fears justified?” took a contrarian approach to the belief that HRT caused weight gain among menopausal women. This was a common reason for many women to fail to complete their therapy,
- A 2014 paper called “Testosterone and weight loss: the evidence,” published in PubMed®, showed that testosterone replacement therapy in men produced significant and sustained results.
These are just a few of the studies that cover this topic. While there are many papers that support these points of view, there are also contrarian viewpoints in the medical community. While it’s important to do your own research before committing to hormone replacement therapy, you should allow your physician to guide your decision.
Pros of Hormone Therapy for Weight Loss
There are many reasons why hormone replacement therapy could be the right move for you:
For many patients, hormone therapy is predictively effective. Multiple studies show that while patients are undergoing the therapy, it helps them reduce weight, increase metabolism, and build muscle mass.
The price of hormone replacement therapy is around $200 to $500 per month, which may be cost-prohibitive for some, but it puts it somewhere around the middle for medical weight loss treatments. Some clinics that specialize in these treatments offer packages and financing that can help defray the expense.
Depending on the administration method, hormone therapy can be extremely convenient, often only involving applying a gel to the skin or taking a tablet. Regardless of the delivery system, you will have to provide blood samples periodically for monitoring. There is also no downtime after treatments.
Some competing medical interventions like bariatric surgery or liposuction require anesthesia and are accompanied by significant downtime.
Patients often experience increases in energy levels, stamina, and strength. Additionally, increased libido is common. Estrogen supplementation can improve skin hydration and overall thickness, giving individuals a youthful appearance.
Cons and Potential Side Effects of Hormone Therapy
While there are several potential benefits to hormone therapy, there are many risks and side effects. If you are seeking hormone therapy for weight loss, ask the care provider about the risks associated with treatments.
The specific risks depend on the individual’s health history and the type of hormones administered. Estrogen therapy has been linked to an increased risk of endometrial cancer, blood clots, stroke, gallstones and other gallbladder issues, dementia, and breast cancer. Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can increase the risk of prostate cancer, BPH, polycythemia (overproduction of red blood cells), and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
While hormone therapy can improve mood, it can also cause volatile mood swings.
Other Side Effects
Additional side effects can include thinning hair, erectile dysfunction, infertility, joint pain, memory issues, night sweats, nausea, acne, indigestion, and more.
If you experience side effects from hormone replacement therapy, you should contact your doctor and ask about discontinuing usage. Stopping usage can cause additional issues, so discontinue treatments only under the supervision of a doctor.
Comparing Hormone Therapy to Emerald Laser Treatment
When it comes to weight loss and fat reduction, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. There are many alternative treatments and therapies. Laser lipolysis, for instance, works on a much different principle than hormone therapy.
How Does Laser Lipo Work?
Since Erchonia’s revolutionary red laser was the first to be market-approved by the FDA, many different laser products have entered the industry. In fact, Emerald Laser is an improvement on Erchonia’s earlier fat removal laser.
The principles behind laser lipolysis are sound. A technician will use the laser to target the lipocytes (fat cells) beneath the skin. The laser bores a hole through the cell membrane and emulsifies the lipids (fats) contained inside. The lipids then slowly drain through these tiny pores, and the body’s lymphatic system disposes of them through the natural waste process. As long as the patient doesn’t regenerate the fat, the effects are lasting.
One of the main features of Emerald Laser that separates it from other laser lipolysis tools — as well as a number of alternative procedures — is that Emerald Laser leaves the lipocytes intact. While it might sound like the preferred course of action is to kill the fat cells, there is a danger in this. If the patient regains weight, the new fat can be disproportionately distributed to other areas of the body. Some of this fat can develop around vital organs. This is one of the reasons that Emerald Laser is preferred by both providers and their patients.
Benefits of Emerald Laser
Emerald Laser has the following advantages:
- Painless – Most patients don’t feel any unpleasant effects.
- Safe – Emerald Laser has no known side effects.
- Non-invasive – Unlike liposuction or gastric surgery, Emerald Laser does not require surgery, which means that there is no anesthesia or healing period. In fact, patients can resume full activities immediately after their treatments.
- Convenient – Emerald Laser treatments can take as little as 30 minutes. Providers usually have early and late hours so that you can schedule an appointment before or after work, on your lunch break, or on the weekends.
- Effective – In multiple double-blind studies, Emerald Laser was proven to reduce the circumference of test group subjects.
Emerald Laser is the only laser lipolysis system approved for individuals with a BMI over 30. In fact, Emerald is safe for BMIs up to 40.
Hormone Therapy vs. Laser Lipolysis
If you’re considering the merits of each weight loss method, there are several factors you should consider:
- Safety – Emerald Laser is considered safe for everyone who qualifies. While hormone therapy is considered safe for most patients, many experience side effects.
- Convenience – Both methods are much more convenient than surgery. However, you will have to attend appointments for both treatments. There is often a small downtime immediately after hormone therapy, but neither treatment causes significant disruption to your daily activities.
- Effectiveness – Emerald Laser has been proven effective in multiple double-blind studies. Hormone therapy has shown mixed results with regard to weight loss. Naturally, it’s difficult to gauge the results across different studies with different subjects, but the clinical evidence for Emerald Laser has been more consistent.
- Sustainability – In order to maintain results, both weight loss approaches work best when the subject maintains a healthy lifestyle and a calorie-neutral diet before and after the treatments.
There is, of course, the possibility of using both treatments together. Because Emerald Laser works on the fat cells and hormone therapy works chemically, the two can be used together. However, you should not participate in either form of treatment without approval from your doctor. It’s also important to inform your hormone replacement specialist about your partaking in laser lipolysis and vice versa.
Making an Informed Decision: Is Hormone Therapy Right for You?
Before undergoing any sort of medical intervention for weight loss, you should speak to a physician. You should never consume any hormone supplements outside of the supervision of a licensed physician.
Emerald Laser providers have physicians on staff, and you can ask questions about laser lipolysis during your initial consultation. Before you commit to hormone therapy, talk to an Emerald Laser center near you.