The head of the Apple technology empire, Steve Jobs, has revealed that a “hormone imbalance” has caused him to lose weight and to take on a gaunt appearance that has alarmed investors, analysts and gadget enthusiasts.
In an attempt to quiet persistent rumors that he is fighting a recurrence of pancreatic cancer, Jobs made a rare personal statement on his health yesterday, which proved sufficiently reassuring to reverse a steady decline in Apple’s shares.
The man behind the iPod, the iMac and the iPhone said he had nothing more serious than a nutritional problem with a “simple and straightforward remedy,” although his remarks caused a degree of puzzlement among experts in endocrinology.
Jobs, who co-founded Apple in 1976, is widely viewed as the driving force behind the company’s innovation in consumer electronics. The 53-year-old’s weight loss has prompted worries on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley over the future of the business.
His decision to pull out of MacWorld, an annual trade show in San Francisco this week, heightened concerns, though he stressed yesterday that he fully intended to remain as chief executive.
In a letter addressed to the “Apple community,” Jobs said he had grown tired of media reports that he could be on his “deathbed.” He said the cause of his weight loss had initially been a mystery but that doctors had recently discovered a “hormone imbalance that has been ‘robbing’ me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy.”
He continued: “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 until late this spring to regain it.”
During early trading on the technology-dominated NASDAQ exchange, Apple’s shares rallied by 3 percent to US$93.56. The stock has fallen by 45 percent over six months, in part depressed by rumors about Jobs’ health, despite the phenomenal global popularity of Apple’s touch-screen iPhone handsets.
Richard Ross, a professor of endocrinology at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, said that although Jobs’ description of his condition was opaque, a hormonal imbalance could be a result of his earlier pancreatic surgery.
“If you’ve had surgery around the pancreas or small bowel, you can get malabsorption or nutritional symptoms,” Ross said. “If you’ve had damage to the pancreas, you can lose enzymes that break down food.”
Such disorders are generally treated with dietary supplements and drugs. A common imbalance of this type is diabetes.
Analysts expressed relief that Jobs had clarified his condition.
“I think it does put to rest all the speculation on his health and I think people will now start to focus on the business,” said Vijay Rakesh, an analyst at ThinkEquity Partners in Chicago.