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Is it possible to lose fat during menopause?

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Is it possible to lose fat during menopause?

by | 8 of May of 2024 | Nutrition

Menopause is a stage in a woman’s life associated with hormonal, physical and emotional changes.

Among the most significant physical changes, and which are often a cause for concern in this population, are an increase in weight and a change in the distribution of body fat. But there is also an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. For this reason, the following article details how to approach this stage with habits, especially diet.

Entering the menopause

Menopause begins between the ages of 45 and 55 and is a stage of life in which women suffer a series of symptoms and changes in their bodies.

Among the best known are increased difficulty resting, hot flushes, night sweats and weight gain.

Clinically, it is diagnosed when the absence of menstruation lasts for a year.

Factors that accelerate this process include:

  • A high percentage of fat: > 30% of body fat, especially at the visceral level.
  • A waist-hip ratio > 0.8: related to high levels of visceral fat and an indicator of central obesity
  • A waist circumference > 80 cm and an abdominal circumference > 88 cm

Cardiovascular risk in menopause

After menopause there is an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease due to oestrogen deficiency and altered lipid metabolism.

Oestrogens, especially E2, play a protective role in the cardiovascular system and are mainly produced in the ovaries by a process that uses low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol as a substrate. However, circulating LDL-C cannot be used to synthesise oestrogen during menopause, resulting in a decrease in oestrogen production. This means that oestrogen is formed from LDL-cholesterol and with the decline in oestrogen, LDL-cholesterol concentrations rise significantly, increasing cardiovascular risk.

Changes in physique: increased body fat in menopause

During childbearing age, fat distribution in women is healthier. It mainly accumulates in the limbs, buttocks and buttocks. This distribution is related to cardiovascular protection.

However, menopausal women have higher total body fat mass, fat percentage and central fat accumulation.

Visceral fat, that which is found in the trunk area, at the abdominal level and surrounding and even in organs, is associated with a high rate of lipolysis (breakdown of fat into glycerol and free fatty acids), leading to increased free fatty acid flux to the liver and increased hepatic insulin resistance.

Although one of the main reasons for the increase in obesity among menopausal women is the decrease in oestrogen levels, there is also a reduction in energy expenditure which affects the risk of obesity.

Complications of excess fat in menopause

A fat percentage of more than 30% of body weight is already associated with an increased risk of metabolic and cardiovascular complications, as well as osteoporosis and cancer.

Intra-abdominal adipose tissue, known as visceral fat, is a metabolically active tissue that generates chronic inflammatory responses, which are capable of interfering with metabolic function. It has been shown that the more abdominal fat present, the greater the positive correlation with chronic diseases such as hypertension, insulin resistance and pathological alterations in the lipid profile. Established risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

On the other hand, excess weight aggravates problems related to bone health, joint pain, knee problems, osteoporosis and fractures.

How to lose fat in menopause?

Diet is a key component in improving this. And it is not a question of following a diet for a certain period of time. At least, if we want adherence and results in the medium and long term.

Dietary management should focus on calorie deficit as well as an improvement in the nutritional quality of food choices. On the one hand, the diet must be rich in fibre. It is therefore important to base main dishes on an adequate amount of vegetables, not forgetting the consumption of whole fruit (rather than juices or smoothies). This improves oxidative stress, positively affecting the number and quality of ovarian follicles.

In relation to water intake, 2L should be the minimum amount of water intake. Although it is true that the recommendation should be on an individual level, as there are those who have greater losses through sweat, this amount should remain as the minimum intake and not as a ceiling.

It is important to incorporate calcium-rich foods such as fermented dairy products (natural yoghurts and kefir), as well as lean cheeses (as the more cured they are, the higher the saturated fat content, which influences LDL cholesterol concentrations), nuts and seeds, beans and green leafy vegetables. This contributes to good bone health. Not forgetting to

avoid excessive consumption of red meat and carbonated drinks, and to cook foods rich in phytates (such as pulses and whole grains) properly, in order to promote calcium absorption.

Magnesium, found in legumes, dark chocolate, avocado, soya and nuts, helps to alleviate symptoms such as hot flushes, insomnia and irritability.

Foods rich in phytoestrogens, especially soya, help to alleviate menopausal symptoms, and also promote musculoskeletal and bone health, due to their high protein and calcium content.

Due to the vulnerability to vitamin D deficiency, it is important to carry out analyses to detect this situation in order to provide adequate supplementation, or to try to avoid deficiency through the consumption of oily fish, eggs and dairy products with a medium fat content.

Maintaining muscle mass in menopause

It should be noted that one of the notable changes in body composition associated with ageing in women is the loss of lean body mass. Ageing increases protein requirements because skeletal muscles reduce their ability to activate protein synthesis in response to anabolic stimuli, possibly due to insulin resistance.

Consuming sufficient protein contributes to healthy and sustainable weight loss due to the maintenance of muscle mass and increased satiating power.

To achieve a minimum, it is important to include protein sources in at least the 3 main meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Finally, at the cardiovascular level, in order to lower cholesterol levels, it is important to take into account the following dietary recommendations:

  • It is important to increase fruit and vegetable intake (large proportions of vegetables and 3 pieces of fruit per day).
  • Opt for whole (unrefined) grains: whole grain rice and pasta; quinoa, oat flakes; pulses
  • Quality lean protein
  • Low sodium diet (reducing consumption of processed and pre-cooked foods)
  • Substitute saturated fats (butter) for unsaturated fats (olive oil)
  • Consumption of soluble/viscous fibre, especially from oats, barley and psyllium.
  • Foods rich in vegetable protein, especially soybeans.