Managing Weight in Mid-Life Years - Understanding Why Weight Gain is Common After Menopause

By Rebecca Lewis on August 30, 2012

Weight gain is one of the most common issues confronted by women during the postmenopausal period. It is widely believed that gaining extra pounds comes along with this process. But in a new study, scientists found it isn’t always the case.

The US study involved 500 overweight women in their postmenopausal stage with waist sizes greater than 31.5 inches. None of them had diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart problem. During the four-year study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh examined the behaviours that were common among the participants that led them to lose extra pounds. They found that those who were able to manage their weight had several things in common. First, they consumed less sugar. Second, they ate less meat and cheese and had more of vegetables and fruits.

Half the participants were enrolled in a weight loss program where they worked with nutritionists, psychologists and exercise specialists. Meanwhile, the remaining participants attended seminars on general health. The study went on for four years. In such span of time, those in the weight loss program lost 8 pounds while those who only attended seminars on general health only lost half a pound of weight.

The researchers noticed more improvements among the participants during the first six months. During this period, postmenopausal women were able to cut back on sugary foods, meat and cheese, dined in the restaurants less often, ate more fish and less of fried foods.

The researchers observed that only two among the mentioned behaviours were sustained until the end of the study – eating less sugar and cheese, and eating more fruits and vegetables.

According to Dr Bethany Barone Gibbs, one of the researchers, those who were able to reduce their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and sweet desserts were more likely to shed extra pounds and control their weight.

Why is weight gain common among postmenopausal women?

According to Nick Panay, chairman of British Menopause Society and a consultant gynaecologist at the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea and Westminster Hospitals in London, the problem with the menopause transition is that women fall on their oestrogen levels which results to their body becoming insulin resistant. This insulin resistant then leads to gain weight, particularly in the waist. He added that gain weight is a major issue among postmenopausal women so attempts to overcome it are very important.

Although it’s difficult, losing weight is possible among these women. Panay recommends choosing the right foods with focus on complex carbohydrates, protein and vegetables, and getting sufficient exercise. HRT may also help, he explained. With the right sort of hormonal support, women may lose weight.

Experts from the British Menopause Society encourage women to visit their GPs and talk about postmenopausal issues such as weight gain. With guidance and awareness, women can stay slim and healthy even during their mid-life years.


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