Q&A with Dr. Agatston

Menopause and Weight Gain

Why am I struggling with weight now that I've hit menopause, and can the South Beach Diet help me with this?
– Ellyn S., Weston, CT

Yes, the South Beach Diet can help offset the weight gain that stems from the hormonal changes that slow a woman's ability to burn calories during menopause. A decline in the hormone estrogen leads to a decrease in bone and muscle mass. Because these tissues are more metabolically active than fat, women usually experience a metabolic slowdown at menopause, meaning they burn fewer calories overall.

In my practice, I've seen many of my menopausal patients prevent this weight gain — and even lose weight — by adapting the South Beach Diet lifestyle, which emphasizes lean proteins, the right carbs, and the right fats. Exercise is also important and will help prevent weight gain by maintaining or increasing muscle mass. Plus, it can alleviate other troublesome symptoms associated with menopause, like hot flashes and sleep disturbances. A study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing in April 2006 showed that women who exercised three hours a week for a year had significantly fewer and less severe menopausal symptoms than did a control group.

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