Weight Loss After Menopause – A new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has found that long-term weight loss is very difficult for post-menopausal women for a variety of reasons. Because women naturally use less energy after menopause, behavior that worked when they were younger becomes ineffective in the long-term.
There have actually been many studies performed on weight control and dieting among post-menopausal women. One study performed by a team at the University of Illinois found that women trying to lose weight after menopause should consume a lot of protein to prevent lost muscle mass. A second study, however, found that a high-protein diet after menopause can contribute to bone density loss. Conflicting studies like these make it difficult for older women to find the best strategy to help them shed unwanted pounds.
While all men and women tend to lose weight when they first begin dieting, long-term weight loss is always a challenge. It seems this challenge is hardest among women after menopause.
Post-menopausal women are at a high risk for many diseases, especially if they are overweight. Older women who are overweight tend to have better overall health if they do manage to lose some weight. One study performed at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington State, for example, confirmed that overweight post-menopausal women who shed at least 5% of their weight had noticeably lower markers for inflammation.
This new study determined that behavior that usually works initally to drop pounds during exercise or diet doesn’t work in the long-term for post-menopausal women. According to the lead researcher of the study, Bethany Gibbs, PhD, targeting these behaviors could assist older females to gain better long-term health benefits, particularly the obese. She also explains the many reasons weight loss in the long run is harder for older women. To begin with, there is often a lack of motivation. Physiological changes have also taken place, such as a lower resting metabolic rate. Hormones that stimulate appetite also increase after menopause.
The study led by Gibbs was designed to find out how certain changes in behavior and food choices could effect weight loss after six months and 48 months. The study involved over 500 overweight post-menopausal women.
The women were divided into two groups: one group went through health education such as seminars on general and overall health with no specific instruction on weight loss; the second group underwent a lifestyle change, including meetings with nutritionists, psychologists and exercise specialists. This second group also lowered their fat intake while increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains in their diet. They were instructed to get a moderate amount of exercise on a regular basis as well.
After 6 months, the researchers found that, when combining the two groups, certain behaviors and habits were linked to weight loss. These habits included eating more fish, dining out less often, consuming less sugary drinks and consuming less fried food.
After 4 years, the women who weighed less still drank less sugar-laden drinksand ate less sweet desserts. Consuming less meat and cheese and increasing consumption of vegetables and fruits was also found to predict weight loss success in the long run.
Not surprisingly, after 4 years, all women reported dining out less, including those who did not have a change in their weight. The authors of this study believe this change was caused by the change in the economy.
The Bottom Line
If you want to improve your chances for long-term weight loss after menopause, this study found that eating more fruit and vegetables and consuming less meat and cheese are the best predictors for success. Eating less sugary drinks and desserts, on the other hand, is linked to both long- and short-term success.