Along with fears of balding, going grey and finding new wrinkles on our faces, gaining weight with age is a common concern for many. Our slowing metabolism is widely accepted for tacking on those extra few pounds, but a new study might have found one more reason: hormones.

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The New York Times reports that Dr. Mone Zaidi, professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, discovered that follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), associated with reproduction, could account for some of the weight gain.

In a study on mice, Zaidi was originally trying to determine how the hormone affected bone density (known to decrease with age), as older women tend to have a lot of FSH in their bodies. Zaidi and his team removed ovaries from lab mice before giving them an antibody to block FSH. The research showed that without the presence of FSH, bone loss was reduced, more calories were burned and less abdominal fat was present.

In general hormones play a significant role in what the numbers on the scale say - ghrelin and leptin are known for helping to regulate hunger.

“If you have struggled to lose weight or keep it off, I guarantee that your hormones are at play,” writes Dr. Natasha Turner, naturopathic doctor and author of "The Supercharged Hormone Diet," in a story on The Dr. Oz site. “Your hormones control every aspect of weight loss including your metabolism, where you store your fat, your appetite and even your cravings! This means any form of hormonal imbalance will sabotage your efforts – regardless of your diet and exercise habits.”

For those looking to shed weight, Turner recommends eating more protein, about 20 to 25 grams per meal and 15 to 20 grams for snacks. She believes that increasing protein will keep blood sugar and insulin levels low. However, a very small study of 34 postmenopausal women indicated that protein did not change insulin sensitivity, reports Time.

Another hormone that makes weight loss challenging is cortisol. The stress hormone has been shown to increase appetite, cravings, and belly fat while lowering muscle mass and memory. Not only that, but it’s thought to increase your chances of depression too. To keep cortisol levels in control, Turner advises sleeping between seven and a half and nine hours per night.

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“Sleep deprivation makes us wake up with higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which fuels appetite and increases our cravings, particularly for sugary and carb-laden treats, even when we have eaten enough,” she writes. “Not only does poor sleep pack on pounds, good sleep actually helps you to lose weight by influencing the hormones that control your appetite and increase your metabolism.”

While the latest study could possibly help reverse what seems to be the inevitable middle age weight gain, it could also turn out to be nothing.

“Whether it works in humans, I have absolutely no idea,” Dr. Zaidi said, though he is preparing to test it in people.

See Also:

Drinking Diet Sodas While Pregnant Could Cause Children To Be Overweight

Why Drastically Cutting Calories Won't Help You Lose Weight; Neurons May Block Dieting Efforts​