The science behind women's weight gain during menopause

www.sbs.com.au
4 min read
fairly easy
Menopause and ageing often see women gain weight as they go through a number of hormonal changes. But it isn't inevitable and there's plenty you can do to combat weight gain.
For most women, perimenopause – the transition to menopause – begins in their 40s. The entire menopause process typically lasts around four years and begins with the ovaries making less estrogen.

A woman is considered to be post-menopausal when she hasn't experienced a menstrual period for 12 months. This usually occurs between the ages of 46 to 52 years.

Symptoms of menopause can include irregular periods, hot flushes, fatigue, tender breasts, night sweats, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, changes in mood and lower libido.

During menopause, hormonal changes can affect the way fat is distributed in the body, but ageing is more likely to be the cause of any weight gain associated with menopause.

Gaining weight isn't inevitable, though. There's plenty you can do to combat weight gain as you age.

Ageing is more likely to be the cause of any weight gain associated with menopause. Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock

Hormonal changes alter where the body deposits fat

Certain areas such as your stomach are more prone to weight gain during menopause. This is because the change in hormones, which lead to a higher testosterone-to-estrogen ratio, alters where the body deposits fat. Fat comes off the hips and is deposited around the middle.

But the hormonal changes involved in menopause aren't the reason you gain weight.

A higher testosterone-to-estrogen ratio resulting from menopause can restribute weight from the hips to the middle. Maridav/ Shuttertock

Ageing is the real cause

The weight gain that comes with menopause is a by-product of ageing.

As we age, our body stops working as efficiently as it did before. Muscle mass starts to decrease – a process known as "sarcopenia" – and fat begins to increase.

And because muscle mass is one…
Nicholas Fuller
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