Hypothalamic Obesity

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A Condition of Excess Weight Gain from Injury to the Hypothalamus

  • Imagine being hungry…really hungry…all of the time and nothing satisfies that hunger.
  • Imagine eating less than 900 calories a day or working out constantly, yet you are still gaining weight.
  • Imagine how it feels when your family and caregivers are locking up cabinets and refrigerators to keep you from eating everything in the house.
  • Imagine if you are hungry enough to eat out of the trash can.
  • Imagine always waiting for the next meal time.
  • Imagine being so hungry that you steal food.
  • Imagine experiencing this because you survived a brain tumor.

This is hypothalamic obesity.

About the Condition

According to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, hypothalamic obesity is a type of obesity that is caused when the hypothalamus doesn’t function normally. One of the most common reasons for a person to develop hypothalamic obesity is treatment for a brain tumor impacting the hypothalamus. Any injury to the hypothalamus can cause the condition.

Rapid, sustained, excessive weight gain can indicate hypothalamic obesity. Children [and adults] with hypothalamic obesity often continue to gain weight even when their food intake is limited, which can be different from other forms of obesity. Some patients, though by no means all, have uncontrollable hunger and may demonstrate abnormal food-seeking behavior, such as sneaking or stealing food. (view source)

Craniopharyngioma and other tumors that occur near the hypothalamus are primarily the cause of the condition — either from the tumor encroaching on the hypothalamus or from treatment of the tumor which can cause hypothalamic injury.

Hypothalamic obesity is one of the most challenging co-morbidities of these tumors and impacts the survivor’s quality of life. Currently, there are no treatments for this condition and, for many that suffer from HO, typical obesity interventions like diet changes and exercise do not offset the weight gain. HO can also trigger other conditions including type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The Raymond A. Wood Foundation works to inform the medical research community of the devastating effects of this condition from the perspective of the patient and caregiver in hopes that a viable treatment option can emerge soon.

Visit our Clinical Trial Finder for the latest clinical trials on HO and hypothalamic brain tumors

Hypothalamic Obesity Resources

Hope for HO – a mother shares her experiences in finding a solution for her son’s HO.

HO Clinical Trials Panel – a recent panel of principle investigators on promising treatments for HO.

Would You Recognize and Know How to Treat Hypothalamic Obesity? EndocrineWeb article for healthcare professionals.

Hungry for Solutions/ Marci Serota, RDN This book was written by a mother and registered dietician sharing her quest to find solutions for her son with HO.

Oxytocin and Naltrexone Successfully Treat Hypothalamic Obesity in a Boy Post-Craniopharyngioma Resection 

Hypothalamic Obesity: Prologue and Promise
Abuzzahab M.J.a, Roth C.L.b, Shoemaker A.H.c

Would You Know How to Recognize and Treat Hypothalamic Obesity?
Marci Serota, RDN with Eugenie Hsu, PhD and Shana McCormack, MD, MTR

A Survey of Patient-Relevant Outcomes in Pediatric Craniopharyngioma: Focus on Hypothalamic Obesity
Meghan Craven, Julia H. Crowley, Lucas Chiang, Cassie Kline, Fatema Malbari, Matthew C. Hocking and Shana E. McCormack

A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial of Intranasal Oxytocin to Promote Weight Loss in Individuals With Hypothalamic Obesity
Shana E McCormack, Zi Wang, Kristin L Wade, Anna Dedio, Nicolette Cilenti, Julia Crowley, Franziska Plessow, Vaneeta Bamba, Jeffrey D Roizen, Yaoguang Jiang, Jack Stylli, Arjun Ramakrishnan, Michael L Platt, Karuna Shekdar, Michael J Fisher, Victoria L Vetter, Matthew Hocking, Rui Xiao, Elizabeth A Lawson

Presentations on Hypothalamic Obesity

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Raymond A. Wood Foundation Partners with STOP Obesity Alliance

In September 2022, Raymond A. Wood Foundation partnered with …

Dear Parents: Here’s What I Want You to Know About Managing HO

Contributed by Lynne Mathies, craniopharyngioma survivor and RAWF intern …

RAWF Hosts Patient Listening Session on HO

The Raymond A. Wood Foundation (RAWF) whose mission is …

Marci Serota, RDN Joins RAWF Board of Directors

The Raymond A. Wood Foundation welcomes Marci Serota, RDN …

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