Afper 40 years of age, a lot of changes appear in a woman’s body, most of which would be fine. Insomnia, hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue and, of course, this famous weight gain make their appearance in women’s daily lives, ringing the menopause alarm bell.
Weight Gain in Menopausal Women
Weight gain and especially a distribution of fat directed towards the abdomen are frequent in women in their fourties. These body changes are the result of decreased estrogen levels, decreased basal metabolism due to natural aging, a share of genetics and other individual influences in postmenopausal women that interfere with the adoption and/or maintenance of healthy lifestyles.
Central obesity, which located at the level of the belly, can lead to several metabolic consequences harmful to health, in particular dysglycemia, dyslipidemia, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Knowing that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in postmenopausal women, it is important to investigate weight management at the age of 40. Without forgetting that weight gain in midlife contributes to other health risks, including cancer, arthritis, mood disorders and sexual dysfunction, health professionals need to know how to talk to their patients and offer them the best possible solutions.
The first step remains simple in the recommendations. An ideal weight management program is a multi-component behavioural intervention that includes changes in eating habits, physical activity and psychological support to enable these behaviour changes. However, according to studies, among the environmental factors that affect weight the most, physical activity seems to be the most important. Indeed, according to a European study, physical activity reduces the influence of a genetic predisposition to obesity, especially in women whose age corresponds to menopause.
Thereafter, when authorized by the physician, hormone therapy should be considered to manage embarrassing symptoms. Women receiving hormone therapy for menopause tend to improve lean body mass, have better insulin resistance and better lipid levels. However, despite its positive influence on the distribution of body fat, menopausal hormone therapy cannot be recommended as a treatment for central obesity in middle-aged women according to research results from a recent literature review. Indeed, medication will restore a better quality of life, that is, better sleep and less mood swings, two psychic symptoms leading to weight gain, but will not affect other factors contributing to increased body fat.
Finally, according to Éric Doucet’s recent research, which focuses on the nutritional component of the weight maintenance or weight loss process during the menopausal phase, food energy density has a significant but modest correlation with body fat mass, regardless of energy intake and initial energy expenditure. However, energy expenditure does not appear to be associated with changes in body fat. Overall, research results do not confirm that energy density is an independent and consistent predictor of adiposity in women in transition to menopause.
Don’t miss Éric Doucet’s lecture: “Menopause, energy intake and weight management,” on October 2 at BÉNÉFIQ 2018.