Menopause and Weight Gain

As we age we tend to put on extra weight in the form of fat, especially in the abdominal, waist and hip area, and we tend to lose our skeletal muscle. So as we become fatter we also tend to become more frail. However, one of the the hormonal shifts that occurs as we mature happens to women when they experience menopause. At this time when the ovaries slowly decrease their ability to make the hormones estrogen (estradiol) and progesterone, most women also experience a weight gain. So the question is usually asked, does the menopause cause weight? The answer is difficult to completely and satisfactorily answer because of the numerous complex interactions between diet, age, physical activity and genetic predisposition. However, the Woman’s Health Clinic and General Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota tried to answer this question as follows:” The current literature supports the aging theory”, that aging with an increase in food and alcohol intake and a decline in physical activity are the major causes of age related weight gain, “and that menopause, per se, after adjustment for aging, does not result in significant weight gain. This may be the result of a weight gain from fat tissue being balanced out by a loss from heavier muscle tissue. 

 However, menopause does result in body fat distribution changes, with a preferential deposition of body fat centrally, and an increase in abdominal obesity. This tendency persists despite adjustment for aging, total body fat, and reduced physical activity level, all of which independently increase visceral fat deposition.” Women who take female hormone replacement therapy find that they generally feel better with less vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and fluctuations of moods) and tend to have a redistribution of their central fat, abdominal and hip areas, to more peripheral areas. So while the menopausal change may be an uncomfortable and distressing change in their midlife, it is not necessarily, by itself, a cause for any significant weight gain.

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