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Body weight, fat distribution and the menopausal status in women

Body weight, fat distribution and the menopausal status in women

International Journal of Obesity 18(9): 614-621

Since sex hormones are involved in the regulation of body composition and adipose tissue metabolism, in this study we investigated whether menopause may alter body weight and fat distribution in women. Data were obtained from the Virgilio-Menopause-Health Study, which is a longitudinal epidemiological project aimed at investigating the relationship between menopause and related plasma hormonal concentrations, body weight, fat distribution and health. Only data from the first cross-sectional examination are presented. Out of the 952 women living in the town of Virgilio, Mantua (Italy) and born between January 1st, 1932 and December 31st, 1946, 596 (62.6%) participated in the study. Since incomplete data were present in 19 women, 577 was the final sample size available for statistical analysis. The protocol included a collection of blood for hormones and biochemistry, a full clinical history with socioeconomic and personal information, drug use, smoking, dietary and physical activity habits, and several anthropometric measurements. According to the clinical and hormonal status, 160 women were classified as pre-menopausal, 124 as peri-menopausal and 293 as post-menopausal. After adjusting for age, we found that body mass index (BMI) was significantly higher in peri-menopausal than in pre-menopausal women and remained slightly, but again significantly, higher in post-menopausal women. Although waist-to-hip and waist-to-thigh ratios increased significantly and progressively from pre- to post-menopause, any difference was not significant after adjusting for age. Diet, physical activity and smoking habits did not explain the difference in BMI values. No difference was found in the use of estro-progestagen compounds between the groups. In the post-menopausal women, there were no differences in either anthropometric or clinical variables between those who underwent bilateral ovariectomy and those who had natural menopause. Gonadotropin levels progressively increased, and estradiol decreased, from pre- to post-menopause, without any significant difference in testosterone and sex hormone-binding globulin. In multiple regression models, body mass index was positively correlated with the waist-to-hip ratio, age and energy intake, and negatively correlated with sex-hormone binding globulin and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). In turn, the waist-to-hip ratio was positively correlated with body mass index and age, and negatively with sex-hormone binding globulin. These data suggest that the menopausal status can slightly but significantly increase body weight, without affecting body fat distribution. Moreover, changes in the fat distribution seem to depend on body mass index and age, but not on menopause or related hormonal patterns.

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