In last week’s blog post we began discussing menopause and belly fat. We talked about the fact that belly fat was more than just a cosmetic issue; it is a health problem. We also discussed BMI and other issues about midlife weight gain. This post continues the conversation. Is midlife weight gain due to menopause or aging?
As I discuss in my best selling book, The Estrogen Fix, about hormone balance and menopause, it is true that the body’s metabolism slows down a little each decade. That does cause a weight gain of about 1 pound per year due to age. But is your jelly belly a function of weight or weight distribution? Is it just weight gain or has a huge rearrangement of your body’s fat seemed to implant a bull’s-eye on your belly? And what role do your hormones play?
The transition from your reproductive years to menopause, called perimenopause, begins when your periods become irregular and ends with your last period. Evidence is mounting that this transition is marked by “unfavorable changes in body composition, abdominal fat deposition and general health outcomes.”
Your ethnic group and level of activity should be considered when it comes to obesity and fat distribution. In a study of 16,000 women, telephone interviews were done with US Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Chinese, and Japanese women. The study concluded that the mean weight of the entire group of women over the 3 years of the study did not differ as the women progressed from premenopause to postmenopause after adjusting for age and other variables. Interestingly, the mean weight of the Caucasian women was significantly greater than the weight of the Chinese women by 2.1 kilograms (about 5 pounds), and the study design led the researchers to determine this increased weight was not due to menopause.
In another study, researchers randomly assigned about 17,000 postmenopausal women who were not using hormone therapy to either a control group that ate whatever it wanted or a different group with a healthier diet that included among other things increased fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. After a year, women in the group who ate a healthy diet had fewer hot flashes and were three times as likely to have lost weight. You can’t control your heritage. You can, however, control what you eat. And what you eat does make a difference in your weight.
In our next post, we’re going to discuss what role hormones play in menopausal weight gain. In the meantime, you can see how much your weight gain and other menopause symptoms are affecting you by taking this short, free MenopauseQuiz.com.