Middle-aged spread 'is inevitable for women if they don't take action'

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Middle-aged spread is INEVITABLE for women: Expert claims you need to eat healthily and exercise unless you want to become apple-shaped after going through the menopause

  • Around a third of women in the UK and the US aged 45 to 54 are obese 
  • Women are more likely to become ‘apple-shaped’ after the menopause 
  • Fat gets stored around their middle rather than being more evenly distributed

Middle-aged spread is ‘inevitable’ if women do not take action on their diet and exercise, it has been warned.

Around a third of women in the UK and the US aged 45 to 54 are obese, figures show.

Women are more likely to become ‘apple-shaped’ after the menopause, with fat stored around their middle rather than more evenly distributed across their hips, thighs and arms.

Now an expert has warned age-related weight gain will definitely happen to women unless they make a concerted effort to prevent it.

Women are more likely to become'apple-shaped' after the menopause, with fat stored around their middle rather than more evenly distributed across their hips, thighs and arms

Women are more likely to become ‘apple-shaped’ after the menopause, with fat stored around their middle rather than more evenly distributed across their hips, thighs and arms

Dr Ekta Kapoor, from the Mayo Clinic’s Centre for Women’s Health, who is discussing the issue at the annual conference of the North American Menopause Society, said: ‘In the absence of active efforts at healthier eating and regular physical activity, weight gain is an inevitable occurrence in midlife women.

‘It is imperative that women enter menopause with this knowledge and the familiarity with practical tips to prevent and manage weight gain.’

A woman who eats 1,000 calories before the menopause will typically burn 700 of those calories and store 300.

After the menopause, she is likely to burn 300 and store 700, as the body holds on to more of it, similarly to ‘puppy fat’ during puberty.

Despite the rise in fad diets, the most important way to lose weight and keep it off is cutting calories, the conference will hear.

Responding to Dr Kapoor’s comments, Amanda Daley, professor of behavioural medicine at Loughborough University, said: ‘Managing weight around the time of midlife and menopause can be difficult for women as the body wants to lay down fat due to hormonal changes that are happening.

‘This means that women might start to see their weight creep even when they are eating the same amount of food and doing the same amount of physical activity.

‘So, in essence, women have to work harder to keep the same body weight which can be very frustrating and demoralising.

‘But actually weight gain does not have to be inevitable and ways to try and combat it are to try and make small changes every day to what they are eating and drinking and think of ways of fitting in some more physical activity to the day to keep the weight at bay.’

Women with disrupted sleep and mood swings linked to the menopause can struggle to adopt healthier eating.

But weight gain in later life is linked to problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: ‘There is now good evidence that going through the menopause does lead to a very slight gain in body fat in women but nothing too substantial.

‘However, men at the same body mass index as women remain at higher risks of heart disease and diabetes because they store more fat around their bellies which is more harmful.

‘All people as they age need to gradually and continually adapt their behaviours to eat healthier foods and try to stay active (aiming for 6,000 steps per day on average, if possible) to help limit age-related weight gain.’

Dr Stephanie Faubion, medical director of the North American Menopause Society, said: ‘Without a doubt, women face an uphill battle against weight gain as they age and transition through menopause.

‘But that does not mean there aren’t ways to help them combat the issue.’

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide 

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