Apple’s Steve Jobs, and how his hormonal imbalance and pancreas is making him sick

Endocrinologists are puzzled over the Apple chief executive’s medical condition.

Steve Jobs disclosed a cryptic letter today detailing his health condition. It reads, “As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.

Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause — a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this Spring to regain it.”

It is known that Jobs underwent a modified Whipple procedure in 2004 to remove a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.

MedPage Today talked with several prominent endocrinologists who did little to clarify the situation.

Said Yale’s Elizabeth Holt, “My best guess is that he was not absorbing nutrients from his diet because he lacked the necessary pancreatic enzymes to digest his food. That can happen if a large portion of the pancreas is removed at surgery.”

The Mayo Clinic’s Adrian Vella adds, “Deficiencies in digestive enzymes make patients vulnerable to changes in diet, impairing nutrient absorption and potentially leading to weight loss.” He also considers that “the pancreatic remnant may have failed.”

The WSJ Health Blog also discusses the case with Michael D. Jensen, another Mayo endocrinologist, and speculates that “it’s possible that the tumor has recurred, perhaps on the pancreas or the liver, and is upsetting hormonal signals involved in digestion.”

Other possibilities include a thyroid disorder, says Bernard A. Roos of the University of Miami. He also considers “low levels of growth hormone due to a chronic illness.”

Endocrinologists are getting their time in the medical punditry limelight, but the bottom line is that no one really knows what’s wrong with Steve Jobs.

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