Menopause Boosts Belly Fat

Menopause doesn’t cause weight gain—just redistribution.

Menopause does not cause weight gain—but it does increase belly fat, according to the results of a new study.

Anyone who has been through the change of life will argue that it brings a variety of unwanted symptoms, including weight gain. But, the truth is, this is one of those enduring myths. Any weight gain that occurs around menopause is likely the result of lifestyle and environmental factors or aging—not menopause.

So, if menopause doesn’t cause weight gain, what’s with the new spare tire around the belly? It turns out that menopause results in hormonal changes that change the way fat is distributed, leading to more abdominal fat. This is the body’s response to the drop in estrogen—and it shifts fat storage from the hips to the waist.

So, if the problem is redistribution rather than weight gain, why should women worry about it? Increased abdominal fat increases the risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Diabetes has become a nationwide epidemic and heart disease is the number one killer of postmenopausal women.

We can’t prevent menopause—but we can adapt to the changes it brings. As estrogen levels drop, women may need to develop increased awareness about their health and their changing bodies. Menopause is an excellent time to take assessment—and make any necessary lifestyle changes.

As always—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The International Menopause Society advises women to take early steps to ensure they don’t gain weight after menopause. In addition, some women may benefit from hormone replacement therapy. The review found that hormone replacement therapy does not cause women to gain weight, but it may prevent abdominal fat from building after menopause.

Reference:

Davis SR, Castelo-Branco P, Chedraui MA, et al. Understanding weight gain at menopause. Climacteric. 2012; 15( 5 ): 419-429.