Belly Fat and Menopause, Why It Happens and What To Do

2013-03-28 10:46

Belly fat and menopause are an unfortunate and frequently distressing combination that affects millions of women who want to know not only why it happens, but what they can do about it. Now scientists offer some new information about why it happens, which may lead to ways to help women do something about it.

Menopause brings many changes

As estrogen levels plummet with menopause, something else in women often rises: the amount of fat that accumulates in the abdominal area. Even thin women experience this change in fat storage, which is distressing not only because it alters a woman’s body image and her sense of well-being, but also because belly fat can dramatically increase a woman’s risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.

Many studies have explored and documented the fact that estrogen is behind the increase in fat stored in the abdominal area. Until now, however, experts have not understood why it happens.

A collaboration between Sylvia Santosa, assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science at Concordia University in Canada, and Michael D. Jensen of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has yielded some answers. After an indepth evaluation of the activities of certain proteins and enzymes from 23 premenopausal and postmenopausal women, this is what the researchers found.

Basically, they discovered that specific enzymes and proteins are more active in postmenopausal women than in premenopausal women, and that the proteins in postmenopausal women store more fat than they did before menopause.

To make matters worse, they found that women who had gone through menopause burned less fat than did premenopausal women. This combination of events is what makes postmenopausal women gain weight.

Although the increased activity of the proteins was not specific to belly fat, the fact that the body is storing more fat overall translates into more belly fat as well. According to Santosa, “A clearer picture of which proteins and enzymes increase fat storage makes those productive targets for future medical advances in the fight against obesity.”


But what can postmenopausal women do about belly fat in the meantime?

How to fight belly fat
Since a postmenopausal body wants to hold onto fat and doesn’t burn it as well, women need to boost their metabolism, and a healthy way to accomplish that is through exercise. An increase in aerobic exercise, such as adding a brisk walk to your daily routine or doing jazzercise or zumba several times a week can help.

But you can do more. Numerous natural supplements, including many without caffeine, may be used along with exercise to boost metabolism and help burn belly fat.

In a review of fat modifying and weight loss supplements conducted by Thomas Jefferson University researchers, six items were evaluated: conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), chitosan, pyruvate (calcium pyruvate), Irvingia gabonensis, Garcinia cambogia, and chia seed. They determined that the first four appeared to be “effective in weight loss via fat modifying mechanisms.”


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