Menopause : Menopause Shifts Weight to Middle

The menopause does not make you fat but the estrogen deficiency that comes with it shifts fat to your middle.

And a fat tummy increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and even dementia, an Australian researcher said Wednesday.

"Weight creep with age is primarily lifestyle and independent of the menopause," Monash University endocrinologist Susan Davis said. "Women who do not change their weight, shift fat to their abdomen and get more like the male pattern of carrying central fat."

Professor Davis is the lead author of a review of all the studies on menopause and weight gain published in the journal Climacteric to coincide with World Menopause Day on Thursday.

She said keeping the "spare tyre" in check was critical.

"Fat produces chemicals that are really bad for your metabolism," the Melbourne-based researcher said. "Pulling out a tape measure and measuring the abdominal circumference is a very strong crude predictor of metabolic risk."

Davis, a board member of the International Menopause Society, said hormone replacement therapy (HRT) did not contribute to weight gain and that there was "good evidence that HRT can prevent abdominal fat increasing after menopause."

She said worries over adverse health effects from HRT were abating after an international scare campaign.

"The pendulum's swinging back for HRT not being terrible," Davis said. "We do know that estrogen therapy at menopause will partly ameliorate this central body fat accumulation and may go towards preventing diabetes and other risks."

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