Topic 4 The “hormonal diet” and the influence of gender and age

  • A novel approach consists in considering hormonal setups, that are different between age groups and even more between males and females.
  • Fat is differently arranged in the two genders and it is conditioned and modulated by circulating steroids.
  • The body composition can significantly influence pubertal timing: an increase in body adiposity and early pubertal development in females are directly related, while in the male population it happens exactly the opposite.
  • The digestive system talks directly with the brain for eating behaviour. The central nervous system plays a key role in regulating appetite through the production of central hormonal signals that transmit information on the body’s energy reserves to the brain.
  • The so-called reward/reward circuits, part of the dopaminergic circuit, can be activated by certain types of food, termed as highly palatable (i.e. foods rich in fat, simple sugars and salt, substances which seem to be naturally preferable), that act like drugs on the brain.
  • It is possible to reduce the glycaemic load of food and gradually move to less sweet varieties of fruit and vegetables.
  • Also, the Chetogenic Diet may be a possible approach.
  • Fibers generally reduce the intestinal absorption of harmful substances including excess hormones and facilitates the formation of an intestinal microbiota dense with bacteroidetes.
  • Green leafy fruits and vegetables and legumes have a high amount of folic acid, which boosts the circulating serotonin.
  • Cow’s milk and its derivatives can be safely consumed according to dietary guidelines, but could be partially substituted by rice, oat, almond and nut drinks (which are also added with calcium).
  • In the prepubertal child, cholesterol-rich foods should be limited, introducing more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • In the pubertal growth phase both estrogen in the female and testosterone in the male will draw from cholesterol for their synthesis, so an increased intake of cholesterol-containing foods can be helpful, while substances with a high risk for estrogen contents, such as dairy products and soy, should be reduced.

Take-home messages:

  1. Genes are not destiny: the contribution of genes to obesity risk is small, while the contribution of our toxic food and activity environment is huge!

  2. Obesity prevention and treatment should always start from the promotion of a HEALTHY LIFESTYLE (education to healthy food and physical activity)

  3. New approaches that exploit evidence regarding microbiota and hormonal patterns in children can be used in the future to enhance the treatment of obesity