Menopause Boosts Belly Fat, Study Says
A commonly held belief is that weight gain during menopause is inevitable. New research suggests otherwise. A recent review of available data on this life change found that menopause doesn't cause weight gain. But it may move fat to your middle.
As women age, they are more likely to gain weight. In fact, women in midlife tend to add about one pound every year. Researchers found that this extra weight isn't caused by the hormonal changes of menopause. It's actually the result of environmental factors and aging, says study leader Susan Davis, a professor at Monash University in Australia.
Although menopause doesn't cause weight gain, it does play a role in belly fat. Researchers found that the drop in estrogen during menopause actually causes a shift in where fat is stored in a woman's body.
"There is no doubt that the new spare tire many women complain of after menopause is real, and not a consequence of any changes they have made," says Davis. "Rather, this is the body's response to the fall in estrogen at menopause - a shift of fat storage from the hips to the waist."
Researchers note that extra weight around the abdomen puts women at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of postmenopausal women. Being overweight or obese increases their risk for many other serious health conditions, too, such as depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
In the study, researchers also found that hormone therapy doesn't lead to weight gain. It may actually prevent belly fat after menopause.
"What this translates to in real terms is that women going through menopause should begin to try to control their weight before it becomes a problem," Davis says. "This means for all women being thoughtful about what you eat and, for many, being more active every day. Estrogen therapy can also help. But each woman is different, so at menopause it is important to discuss your health with your doctor."
The study was published in a recent issue of Climacteric.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.