The Fantastical World of Hormones

The Fantastical World of Hormones

2014, Science  -   18 Comments
Ratings: 8.38/10 from 185 users.

Many scientific findings are often dismissed by the public. Whether it is the severe importance of a particular diet or exercise, or the impact of stress and sleep deprivation on our bodies and thinking processes, we often turn our heads from the research, the numbers, and the findings. Such an observation, as broad as it may seem, can similarly be applied to our understanding of the hormones. Typically, when an individual is confronted with the term, "hormone," he or she will think of emotional responses and sexual awakenings.

However, hormones do not relate only to emotional and sexual impulses. They are involved in our everyday occurrence, awakening, and development. Whether referring to our metabolism and appetite, or our emotional reactions to stimuli, or how we behave from situation to situation, hormones are involved in the performance.

As a leading expert in the study of hormones, John Wass explains the true definition and involvement of the hormones in all of our daily operations. He explains, in more basic terms, the hormone's involvement in our cell stimulation and development. Beyond these personal connections, however, Wass also delves into the importance of the hormone in many scientific breakthroughs and medical treatments, including but not limited to the current, hot topic of obesity and the curing of this epidemic.

In addition to the many scientific observations supporting the importance of the hormones, in this documentary, John Wass also takes us through some of the more interesting - even quirky - history surrounding this chemical substance. From castration to the discovery of insulin, Wass shares some of the strange tales involved in the study and attempted extraction of the hormones.

The Fantastical World of Hormones is an interesting study of the history and deeper definition of the hormones and the significant role they play in our bodies, our lives, and in the advancement of the sciences, particularly those focused on curing diseases and further explaining how our bodies function. Going on such a journey with John Wass may lead not only to a greater understanding of such an important, natural chemical substance, but it may impact how we view and appreciate the continued progress of the sciences.

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18 Comments / User Reviews

  1. amelia

    Didn't learn anything with this documentary.

  2. Atif

    I am a docu maker. All my life I thought that biochemistry played a vital role in human life. This docu is a repeat watch for me. So informative and yes it endorses many observations and gives answers to many theories and clarifies many assumptions of guilt.

  3. Amanda

    The repeated comment "the ovaries, the womb, the uterus" is highly disconcerting. Are these scientists presenting this programme really who they say they are? Uterus AND womb? Highly suspect, but then the bbc still bangs on about evolution and millions of years, lol.

  4. Nikoleta

    I just started watching and what I recall is that chakras in yoga/ ayurveda supposedly correspond to hormone-producing glands in the human body. Thus if they're all working well you are a balanced and healthy indivudual.

    I would love to see a documentary based on a research combining modern/scientific and ancient knowledge.

  5. SpookyCheese

    Disapointed that I didn't really learn anything new from this, I guess I was hoping it would be much more in-depth about chemestry and microbiology.

  6. Engaging123

    I enjoyed this! Enlightening.


    Dear Professor
    Sadaf Farooqi,

    I was a bit shocked when I heard and saw you say that obesity was a genetic problem „mutations in genes“.

    You make it sound as if obese persons need only take leptin and their problems will be gone. This sounds like the new pharmaceutical market parallel to insulin.

    If a person has more fat cells than normal, then the person should be producing more leptin. Something must be blocking the target and receptor.

    I know what is blocking the leptin, very well, because I have used myself as an experiment for the last two and a half years. My leptin receptors work very well today.

    I lost weight (normal) and have developed a natural appetite for healthy food and dislikes for trendy food (processed). I used and use no medication and I do not hunger myself – I can hike for more
    than 20 kilometers without a rest – only on the weekends.

    If you continue your research in this manner – will I know what stocks to buy! On the other hand, it’s a shame you haven’t looked into Dr. John Yudkin work of 1972 - So it seems.

    Question, how will you live with yourself?

    I’m not a doctor. I just work with a lot sick people. (letter send to Prof. Sadaf Farooqi)

    1. Oscar

      One doesn't have to exclude the other. Perhaps carefully examining the effects of sugar and starch intake aswell as the respons in leptin production is a good way of approaching this. I do share your concern with wrong diagnoses when a doctor doesn't want to confront a patient with bad lifestyle, like we refuse to do with the deadly effects of prolongued stress and instead we treat the symptoms, like tense muscles with stress or leptin with obesity, when we could simply show the cause and guide the patient to a more healthy and ultimately a longer and happier life.

      Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that this guy is wrong per say. Just as diabetus might be genetic, or caused by bad lifestyle or even by a virus or antibiotic that killed the betacells. Just because there are different causes doesn't mean that the other causes are untrue. Also his field is hormones, so you can't expect him to look at nutricion. Perhaps the fields should better overlap in the very near future.

      I too showed a remarkable recovery, but not from obesity but from several personality disorders, but also caused and fixed by teaching my body to like healthier food and not crave sugars and starch as much. The doctors have no explanation for my recovery, yet. There is much to learn. Let's just hope that the doctors involved have gotten curious by the results and will study it in larger groups.

  8. Marian Vickers

    Found this a fascinating history of endocrinology and hormones!
    HOWEVER appears very male orientated, with testosterone mentioned often while oestrogen only in passing. As Barbara Seaman stated about the oral contraceptive pill and HRT: "Oestrogen = the greatest experiment ever performed on women " - and yet this wide-scale experiment doesn't even rate a mention.

  9. gwhosubex

    not mindblowing at all.

    Typical superficial documentary, instead of deep, informative documentary.

  10. John Mulvihill

    As someone with a pituitary disorder, I've done some research into endocrinology and, repeatedly, have been awestruck by the majesty of the brain's hormonal feedback loop and how it regulates hormone production. For a taste, do a Wikipedia search on "hypothalamus."

    This documentary presented some useful history, but was patchy and overly anecdotal in its presentation of the endocrine system. Top-notch presentation graphics were called for, but what we got instead was the host poking a key in a door -- a labored metaphor for hormone/tissue interaction.

    The narrative was by turns unctuous and dumbed down. Frustrating! I'm sure the host is a far better scientist than media personality, so perhaps I'm being harsh. But my hopes were so high.

  11. Horst Manure

    All these years I thought a hormones were noise you heard in a brothel..

  12. ksm_mmd

    A very interesting program! I'm an engineer, so I don't know nearly as much about medicine and biology as I would like to. However, had I instead chosen a career in medicine, I think I would have been drawn to endocrinology.

    My chosen specialty is automatic control theory, which is concerned with regulating the dynamic behavior of engineered systems such as robots, automated machinery, rockets/missiles/aircraft, etc ... It seems to me that endocrinology is the biological equivalent of control theory in the sense that the endocrine system regulates the dynamic behavior of biological systems.

    1. Mohammed

      I am a system engineer as well and I could see that relation as closely equivalent!

  13. sharpstuff

    An interesting documentary and typical BBC. It starts well until the end, when it gets a bit wacky.

    It tells us that the pituitary gland controls the hormones (it is usually known as the 'leader of the endocrine orchestra').

    When Wass leads us to the rather cuddly lady talking about Leptin, we suddenly start talking about how it is supposed to regulate fat in the body. If the pituitary regulates hormones it must regulate Leptin (since they are calling it a hormone).

    Incidentally, the function of the brain is to regulate everything in the body. Repeat, everything. It therefore regulates the pituitary. That is basic biology/physiology.

    One should also be very wary of trying to make out that genes control everything (or anything) and that humans are subject to their genes.This is patently not true in life (it may in the laboratory). If those who do so (believe in the gene hypothesis) would look at the Human Genome Project, they would discover that it is the body that regulates the genes. This was not a conclusion, I gather that they wanted to come up with but had to accept. The terrain of the body is all that matter in health.

    Have a look at the science of epi-genetics (not Wikipaedia, please, it is too Main Sewer).

    Thus we must be also wary of the so-called 'germ' hypothesis of 'disease' creation. Nature is not self-destructive (which this hypothesis asserts).; if it were, none of would be here.

    Only the creature Man is self-destructive; at least those I call humanoids. Humans work with Nature like the birds and bees.

    All 'disease is a product of malnutrition (physical and/or mental) and no single 'causes' are possible.

    1. ksm_mmd

      @sharpstuff I agree that epigenetics is a fascinating subject! Even more so than genetics, I think - and one that appears to be far, far more complex as well. I would love to see some good documentaries on that topic!

    2. NX2

      You're right, it ends slightly wacky in suggesting that hormones might be the ones controlling us, and in its (mild) emphasis on hoping for miracle cures. I guess that's due to scientific enthusiasm on the part of the presenter John Wass. After 40 years of studying, i guess it's his lifework. And maybe, his suggestions are merely a form of motivation to keep him going, if anything more?
      On the other hand it's also good to be wary of such enthusiasm if we consider the C.E. Brown-Séquard and E. Steinach cases. And that hormones control a whole deal seem to fit the picture, but to suggest therefore it controls all, is to much of a leap. Your comparison to genetic predetermination is of course well pointed out.
      However, i find your comment getting a bit wacky too (if i may say so), even before halfway through.
      First of all - i looked it up - the pituitary does indeed produce leptin, but the point they are making here is that leptin is also made outside of the gland (in fat cells for example) and that leaves the regulatory aspect of the pituitary in debate. If you have proof that contradicts this, you're free to present it, of course.
      Also, what's the need for pointing out that the brain regulates the pituitary?

      Nature is not self-destructive?
      Can you prove that germs have no influence on health?
      Only the creature Man is self-destructive?
      All disease is a product of malnutrition?
      I'm not entirely sure what you are trying to get at here, but could you reconsider some of your statements here? Because, before you know it you' ll be advocating esoteric healing 'a la Alice Bailey'. Or something else perhaps?

    3. kl3m

      My god man!
      Honestly? U serious?
      Every point you made is so ridiculous that I don't believe you legitimately believe it yourself.
      If you do.... you need to read a book or 2 or 20 (from a reputable source, not some wacko pseudoscientist)
      it's really sad, people understand so little about science that they can believe such idiotic "hypotheses" as your examples given. What next? You going to object to the heliocentric theory as well?