A team of international researchers has confirmed what many older women have long suspected: that weight builds up at the belly during menopause, even without any gain in weight.
Released to coincide with World Menopause Day last week, the research was led by S.R. Davis, an epidemiology professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and published in the journal of the International Menopause Society Climacteric. In the paper Davis' team attributes the migration of fat from a woman's hips to her midsection to midlife hormonal changes, primarily a drop in estrogen.
The team cites a doubling of obesity world-wide since 1980 but writes that menopause per se is not to blame. Rather, several factors, including being less active over time, eating more high-calorie food, genetic predisposition and even sleep deprivation and disruption of circadian rhythms are more likely at fault. Given the risks associated with obesity, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes -- as well as difficult psychological consequences like poor self-esteem -- the researchers encourage women to move proactively to avoid weight gain as they approach menopause. Such steps include eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.
S. R. Davis, C. Castelo-Branco, P. Chedraui, M. A. Lumsden, R. E. Nappi, D. Shah and P. Villaseca. Understanding Weight Gain at Menopause. Climacteric 2012;15:419-429.