Your age is not the only number which increases as the years goes by, number on the weighing scale also increases as you age. This is especially true for women going through menopause. It is estimated that women gain about 1–2 kgs during the perimenopausal transition between the age of 45 to 55 years old.
Low circulating estrogen levels due to progressive loss of ovarian function is known to result in a change in body composition with increased fat and decreased muscle mass. This increase in fat mass that occurs during the menopause journey would usually be deposited in your abdomen area as visceral fat rather than your hips, thighs and buttocks. Excess abdominal fat is linked to various health problems including heart disease and diabetes.
Hormonal changes during perimenopause may contribute to increased appetite and calorie intake which causes weight gain. In one study, it was discovered that perimenopausal women had much higher levels of the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin, than premenopausal and postmenopausal women did. Function of leptin and neuropeptide Y that control fullness and appetite may also be impaired due to the low estrogen levels in the late stages of menopause. Hence, women in late stages of perimenopause who have low estrogen levels may be driven to eat more calories.
Fortunately, with healthy lifestyle choices weight gain during menopause can be prevented or reversed. Healthy lifestyle choices are beneficial at any age, but are especially crucial during menopause. Healthy choices you can make at menopause include:
- Monitoring menopausal symptoms and other body changes and getting early advice from your doctor
- Ensuring adequate intake of calcium (preferably through your diet) and vitamin D
- Eating healthy and balanced diet rich in fibre from wholegrains, fruits and vegetables.
- Be physically active (engage in strength training to improve body composition, increase strength, and build and maintain lean muscle)
- Stop smoking for those who has the habit
- Drinking no more than two standard alcoholic drinks per day.
- O’Sullivan AJ. Does oestrogen allow women to store fat more efficiently? A biological advantage for fertility and gestation. Obesity Reviews. 2009 Mar;10(2):168-77.
- Mauvais-Jarvis F, Clegg DJ, Hevener AL. The role of estrogens in control of energy balance and glucose homeostasis. Endocrine reviews. 2013 Jun 1;34(3):309-38.
- Fenton A. Weight, shape, and body composition changes at menopause. Journal of Mid-life Health. 2021 Jul;12(3):187.
- Sowers MR, Wildman RP, Mancuso P, Eyvazzadeh AD, Karvonen-Gutierrez CA, Rillamas-Sun E, Jannausch ML. Change in adipocytokines and ghrelin with menopause. Maturitas. 2008 Feb 20;59(2):149-57.
- Lizcano F, Guzmán G. Estrogen deficiency and the origin of obesity during menopause. BioMed research international. 2014 Oct;2014.