Menopause itself doesn’t cause women to gain weight, contrary to widespread belief. But the hormonal changes of menopause are associated with a change in the way a woman’s body fat is distributed, leading to more belly fat.

That’s the conclusion of a comprehensive study conducted by the International Menopause Society, which is calling for women to be more aware of the problems associated with excess weight, and to take early steps to prevent weight gain during menopause.

The key finding was that the way fat is deposited changes in menopause; studies indicate that this is due to the drop in estrogen levels. Whether or not women gain weight at midlife, after menopause women experience a shift in their fat stores to their abdomen.

"It is a myth that the menopause causes a woman to gain weight,” says Professor Susan Davis (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia), the review leader. “It's really just a consequence of environmental factors and aging which cause that. But there is no doubt that the new spare tyre many women complain of after menopause is real, and not a consequence of any changes they have made. 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."

IMS President, Tobie de Villiers (Cape Town, South Africa), said: "Weight gain is a major risk factor for a variety of diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is by far the number one killer of postmenopausal women, and this risk is increased by excess weight. Women need to be aware of this, especially at the menopause when estrogen levels drop. A woman may need to adjust her lifestyle to ensure a healthier life after the menopause. In fact, I would say that a woman should consider using the menopause as a marker, a reason to review her overall health, with her doctor, so that she can take her own decisions on how her life moves forward."

So, the take-away is that if you haven’t been paying attention to your health – particularly your weight – prior to menopause, this is the time to start. Be more aware of what you’re eating, cut down calorie-laden sugar and fats, and be more active every day.

Have you changed the way you manage your weight at midlife?

Source: Science Daily

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