Are menopause and weight gain still linked?
Are we doomed to gain weight once past menopause?
Ask any woman what menopause brings to her.
She will answer you: menopause rhymes with weight gain .
Of course, there are also hot flashes, insomnia, sometimes, depression because of hormonal upheaval and so on …
But what the majority of women remember is weight gain .
And why that ?
Already since it will remain once the period of menopause passed.
But also because we women, we want to feel sexy and good in our body, and this regardless of our age.
Closed parenthesis, let’s go back to menopause and weight gain.
Are these two phenomena really correlated?
A priori, all seems to indicate, several statistical studies prove that women tend to gain weight at the advent of menopause.
In this case, how to avoid the inevitable?
We will sweep together all these questions and you will see that it is not as simple as it looks.
It is necessary to know how to disentangle the true from the false and this even having some experimental conclusions.
To begin, let’s go back to the scientific definition of menopause:
What is menopause?
The definition given by the World Health Organization in 1996 is as follows:
Menopause is defined as a permanent cessation of menstruation resulting from a loss of ovarian follicular activity .
Menopause manifests itself through several symptoms, whether physical and / or psychological.
The most important consequence (and of interest to us in the context of weight loss or weight gain) is estrogen deficiency .
Note that this deficiency is responsible for several visible symptoms such as sleep disorders, night sweats or non-visible sweats such as osteoporosis.
If we push the reasoning a little further, I could extrapolate saying that post-menopausal weight gain is necessarily related to this decline in estrogen.
Which is legitimate as hypothesis.
In order to invalidate or confirm the hypothesis, we will have to look at estrogen and its various interactions in the human body.
First, estrogen is a female sex steroid hormone .
It is produced by the ovaries mainly and adipose tissue, adrenal glands and liver in smaller amounts.
Estrogen and progesterone have particular roles in the menstrual cycle but will not be discussed in this article.
We will instead focus on anything related to weight gain or loss.
One of the effects of estrogen is to increase the number of alpha-adrenergic receptors in the lower part of the female body.
These receptors slow down the release of fat.
This is one of the reasons why many women have a fat distribution in the shape of pear (more fat in the pelvis and thighs and glutes).
Estrogen will also facilitate the storage of fat to the subcutaneous areas (fat located just under the skin of the arms or legs).
This would be one of the reasons why postmenopausal women, having lost the influence of estrogen, will see their fat distribution become more concentrated in the abdominal area.
However, other studies show that higher estrogen levels lead to an increase in alpha-receptor activity.
This would mean that by training with lower levels of estrogen, fat loss should be faster, especially in the lower body.
At this point, you agree that this is clearly at odds with statistical studies that correlate weight gain with menopause.
On the one hand, we have experimental scientific studies that prove that weight loss is more simple after menopause while statistical studies show a contrary phenomenon.
But is it really contradictory? Can not these two studies coexist?
We will see this soon, for this we will return to estrogen …
What are the effects of estrogen?
Presented as such, there is every reason to believe that estrogen is not an ally in terms of weight loss or weight gain limitation, though:
Estrogen seems to have an anabolic effect (helps build muscle).
This effect may be related to its increased sensitivity to insulin (estrogen increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which promotes fat loss).
In addition, estrogen has an anti-cortisol effect (stress hormone), another mechanism by which they would avoid the storage of fat in the abdominal area.
And it does not stop there :
Estrogen affects the thyroid by decreasing its ability to produce thyroid hormones.
This is why women have a larger thyroid than men: their higher estrogen levels have an anti-thyroid effect.
How is this embarrassing?
By the fact that the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 are responsible for the regulation of the metabolism.
We are therefore confronted with the dual nature of estrogen , with its counterbalancing effects.
But the question I ask myself is: which of the effects has the ascendancy over the other?
On this issue, I have not been able to find any scientific studies or articles that address the issue in detail.
That said, it does not matter to us because, during the menopause, we are more confronted with a situation of estrogen deficiency:
It is therefore theoretically simpler to lose weight .
To complete the theory, I come to add a statistical study this time made in the rules of art and which prove that it is easier to lose weight in post-menopause than before (the study was performed on two groups of women: pre- and postmenopausal) .
Now, back to the first point where I exposed two conflicting studies – one statistic and one experimental.
In reality, they are not contradictory .
The only conclusion one can make of the statistical study is the following:
When the menopause arrives, the physiological change of the women (distribution of the fat at the level of the belly) can reduce their sports motivations and push them to a sedentary behavior.
Thus, if statistically women gain more weight following menopause, it is not due to hormonal changes, but to habits.
With age, we do less sports, and we are more likely to indulge in food.
Yet, menopause technically allows you to lose fat more easily.
Finally, I am going to take advantage of having re-established the truth about menopause to treat a very controversial subject: it is about hormone therapy.
Many women use hormone therapy to counteract or limit weight gain and other symptoms.
As a reminder, hormone therapy, also known as “hormone replacement therapy” (HRT) or “hormone replacement therapy”, refers to the therapeutic use of estrogen and progesterone to compensate for decreasing rates of these hormones during menopause.
Regarding the symptoms of menopause, I have absolutely no say, on the other hand for weight loss, we will be able to debate.
We have seen that weight loss is easier in the presence of less estrogen, so it is counterproductive to take HRT to facilitate weight loss.
The thyroid hormones and adrenal catecholamines (adrenaline / epinephrine and noradrenaline / norepinephrine) are more important in the fat burning hierarchy than estrogen and progesterone and we have already seen the above thyroid hormones.
This is another reason why hormone replacement is not an effective recipe for fat loss and could even contribute to some women’s fat intake.
If you want to lose weight, you have to go back to basics: calorie deficit while balancing your diet .
While this will be more complicated because of the decline in metabolism but if you rely on bodybuilding, you can always increase your muscle capital and therefore your metabolism in the long term.
And you have to keep in mind that losing weight will be faster.
If you managed to lose weight when you were young then there is no reason not to succeed.
And if you have not managed to have your dream body during your youth, it’s still not too late to try, it will be easier 😉