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So does extra fat crank out dangerous estrogen, or what?

Blog Forums Nutrition So does extra fat crank out dangerous estrogen, or what?


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    mighty m

    I’d like to hear the Matt/180 take on body fat as a supposedly dangerous factory of dangerous estrogen … has this topic been covered before? If not, maybe an upcoming article?

    There seems to be a mainstream understanding that body fat produces estrogen, and that the more body fat, the more estrogen. And that any more estrogen than absolutely necessary = bad. Because … cancer! Not to mention estrogen-dominance symptoms for women, and getting all gyney for men.

    First, is the danger of fat as an excess-estrogen source really as bad as it sounds? Second, if it IS worth worrying about, how much excess fat is enough to cause problems? 20 pounds, 40 pounds, 100, who knows? (It’s never specified because the presentation is usually marinated in the ubiquitous weight-related fear-mongering.)

    A typical presentation is as found in this Dr Oz infotainment (not that I put much stock in old Ozzy, per se, just citing as a representation of mainstream/mild-alterna-ism):

    If you are overweight, you may have elevated estrogen levels; fat cells actually produce the hormone, so extra weight can lead to too much estrogen in the body. This can be a serious problem because excess estrogen can fuel breast and uterine cancers.


    I know I sound like a broken record, but if you carry extra pounds, exercising and watching your diet are essential: Losing weight can improve your estrogen balance and simultaneously reduce your risk of cancer. (An overweight or obese postmenopausal woman who loses just 5 percent of her weight could potentially cut her risk of breast cancer by up to 50 percent.)

    Here’s the link:

    So let’s hear the 180 view!

    • This topic was modified 10 years, 10 months ago by mighty m. Reason: to correct blockquote formatting
    • This topic was modified 10 years, 10 months ago by mighty m. Reason: i suck at html
    • This topic was modified 10 years, 10 months ago by mighty m. Reason: still can't format

    I’d really, really like to know too. It would explain the vicious circle of weight gain and the ‘closed gate’ to losing the weight again. I believe I have symptoms of estrogen overload – PMS, sometimes a double period, and alternating between good patches and bad, during which I feel liverish, bloated, dull, depressed, exercise averse, get fatter esp on the stomach, dull headaches, feel just plain sick. I just know that if I can stop these cycles I’ll make progress with health and weight loss. Trouble is everything I try, intuitively or as a result of reading, does not help. I’m in a bad patch now (directly after my period strangely enough) and trying to turn it around not endlessly cycle. But everything I do makes me feel worse. This time I listened to my body and for the past few days ate the fruit I was craving(OJ and papaya mostly) had the nap I thought might help my low energy, then had 30g gelatine in a hot drink with salt (as per my reading not craving), and the end result is I feel much much worse today. Like some dodgy ‘detox’. It’s like any change I make to try feel better, makes me worse. I used to get ‘detox’ symptoms when I ‘detoxed’ but now I get them whenever I make a change to anything I’m doing, like going higher carb (I stopped that, wow it so did not work); trying to sort out these estorgen symptoms; having more fruit because I crave it, all of a sudden. I recently restarted an egg a day after someone left a link to a choline article in the comments of a recent blog post (thanks whoever it was) and that helped A LOT with the liverish nauseated dull headache and hungover feeling, but it’s all back today. as a regular thing, Progesterone cream I know has a bad rep but I find it helps a lot – usually. Coffee made with milk and sugar helps the breast tenderness a lot. Sorry for being disordered scattered and incoherent – but I just know this is key, so I second the above request – anyone shed some light?

    The Real Amy

    You may want to check out Amber (who runs the blog) was obese for most of her life and believes firmly that the way to break the bad hormone cycle that gets going once you become obese is to do weight training and other exercise (while eating enough to fuel your body). She has said that it is very hard at the beginning when you start exercising, but you start slow and it gets better. I am inclined to agree with this view, and I think Matt does, too, based on what I’ve seen.

    mighty m

    Lots of admiration for Kaleo Amber! In fact, it was reading what she said about estrogen in fat (in addition to the more mainstream stuff) that made me want to understand if extra estrogen could be an unwanted side effect of doing a metabolism-boosting re-feed.

    Personally, still working on my temps after a period of paleo-based undereating that lasted about 6-8 months. Before the undereating, I was ~20+ pounds “overweight” per bmi; during the grain-free undereating (1800-2100 cals), I quickly dropped to “normal” weight for the first time since high school. Now that I’m eating to appetite again with no restrictions and not tracking calories, I’m back to my familiar 20# overweight. Not sure if weight has stabilized yet, but temps are almost there. I returned to eating to appetite because I had developing poor digestion, severe insomnia, low temperatures and other slow-metabolism signs, all much improved with refeeding (note, I have only eaten when hungry, never “stuffing myself” as some describe, but my appetite has been voracious).

    Anyway, going back to MY previous normal (somewhat overweight) has been good for my health … but do I need to be worried about creating an estrogen factory if I end up gaining more weight, or even staying at this fatness level?

    When undereating, tracking calories was crazy-making for me. I *really* don’t want to go back to doing that … then again, I’ve never been truly obese, and don’t want to start now if I can avoid it.

    BTW, re exercise, was exercising all along, but not compulsively exercising or overexercising by typical standards. Hiking (short, like 90 min), bicycle-commuting, body-weight strengthening exercises.


    — I tried to follow your account but I couldn’t fully understand well enough to make an intelligent comment. Not sure from your post if you have a history of dieting/undereating that might contribute to symptoms, or some other specific trigger, or if these are lifelong symptoms? When you say going higher carb didn’t work, what was the low carb intake, vs the higher amount you tried? Seems pretty universal that adjusting to more carbs after a low carb period will require adjustment, so that may be part of it.


    Thanks Amy! I totally agree and am fascinated by Gokaleo and this possible way out of the trap. Also Kendahl has updates on her progress on exactly the same approach. I’ve been trying to gently head in that exact direction, and have been doing so for over a year in fact … but during the regular bad patches I get flareups of inflammation of old injuries plus I feel so ill I can’t continue, then as soon as I can, which is weeks or months later :( I start up again. Yesterday a flight of stairs had me dizzy and almost throwing up, so it’s quite a barrier. I’m trying to balance it as best I can to make it sustainable without being so low key that I forget I have a program at all! But even that is regularly ‘crashing’. Recently after 2 years I have had some important improvements such as normalized blood sugar which I am absolutely delighted about, slightly better energy, a teeny bit of weight loss off my middle, hence a bit less breathlessness. I do still think it makes good sense and I keep trying but if I could do something about the bad patches I’d make more progress. Hence the estrogen question. Thanks again for the input!


    Mighty M, I’m 2 years into recovery from a near lifetime of dieting. I’m 49 and I started in my teens with low fat(recipe for blood sugar crashes and cravings) for most of that time, the orthorexics’ orthodoxy! Then the ‘health food’ phase, then I became a low then no carb zealot for 7 years sadly, during which migraines made an entrance for the first time, followed I regret to say by about 5 rounds of hcg. Of course I never even needed to diet in the first place so where do I start with the regrets ??
    Anyway. Needless to say I gained a ton on stopping all this, haven’t gone near a scale but I think about 60 pounds. I do think there’s a vicious cycle involving estrogen from excess fat and that is yet another trap I fell into but I don’t know how I could have avoided that.
    The recovery process: started with some rrarfing but really that did not last long before I just ate to appetite though that was often metabolism-dropping. Recently just to know where I stand I’ve done a bit of calorie counting, to find that in the past 2 months it has spontaneously dropped 300-500c a day to 2300-2500 which interestingly enough is about my goal weight maintenance level. Keeping an eagle eye on metabolism signals, they’re staying nice and level. So all that is good. It’s just these bad patches.

    The higher carb thing was in response to a blog by Matt (and people like David are talking about it now in the forums) about raising carbs even more but that made me feel ill. I’m now rediscovering the formula that really seems to work, the lifelong one when not obscured by orthorexia, of doing best on eggs for breakfast, quite a lot of fruit, and animal protein most dinners. It’s just these bad patches that derail me!

    I do agree that 1. getting your metabolism strong enough to exercise then 2. building muscle strength and general activity and 3. restricting ever so slightly so your body scarcely seems to notice, makes the best sense of anything I’ve read.

    If I was in your position (I wish I was;))I’d say firstly that 20 pounds is not crazy overweight and if it’s not rising, then if a realistic and enjoyable exercise approach can be sustained, and metabolism signs don’t drop, you’re so on the right track and the rest should follow!

    mighty m

    Thanks for your response, Sue! & Amy!

    Wow, Sue, you’ve been through a LOT, I am glad to hear you’re on the road to recovery now. Even though I’m just an internet stranger, I actually feel genuine relief that you aren’t doing that stuff anymore.

    I think you’re right … the more I thought about it, it seems obvious that metabolism has to come first. Even IF fat-generate estrogen were bad, I guess it doesn’t work to try to get rid of it, if one doesn’t have a strong metabolism to work with.

    After this thread, I was motivated to re-read some of Amber O’Kaleo’s stuff (j/k, I know that’s not her name!). She’s very clear that anyone recovering from “starvation symptoms” needs to recover from that and stabilize before trying to lose weight. The title of this article seemed not to apply to me at all (i.e., I’m not worried about “last 5 pounds” hahahaha) but the content did: It’s about building strength while NOT trying to lose weight.

    Thanks again for the responses! My temps are sometimes there, sometimes a bit low for no obvious reason, but I think I’m close; my energy is better, but not yet 100%. Even still, I feel 10x stronger than I have in at least the last few years.

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