That’s why medical professionals focus on the health issues related to weight gain.
“We do a lot of counseling with our patients about nutrition and exercise,” Greenquist said.
At one of the menopause chats she regularly gives, Greenquist said she talks about ways to combat the muffin top, sleeplessness, hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. She also talks about diet.
“We tend to overindulge on carbohydrates and not get nearly enough protein. Those two conditions contribute to fat on their bodies,” she explained. “I give them some basics on changes that could be helpful. Exercise needs to be muscle-building exercise — doing things that will increase their metabolism.”
The Mayo research might lead to other strategies for maintaining a healthy weight after menopause. For example, Jensen said it raises questions about the kinds of dietary changes doctors might suggest. It also raises questions about whether hormone replacement therapy may play a role in offsetting weight gain.
“Those kinds of questions we weren’t able to address with this study,” he said, “but that’s something we’ll have to consider in the future.”
Sylvia Santosa, an assistant professor of nutrition science at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec and the study’s co-author, added that while science doesn’t offer any fixes for the postmeno belly, the findings shed much-needed light on the issue. “It puts us one more step toward understanding how estrogen affects how and where we store fat,” she said.
Mary Rossi, 64, of Minneapolis, used to take pride in her “marked waist.”
Since menopause, she’s watched her midsection grow five inches, despite the fact that she now eats less and is still active. She’s healthy and her body is proportionate, but she says, “I’ve given up trying to go back to the waist I had when I was 50.”