Research on strategies to avoid or reverse menopausal weight gain.
Dr Maire Claire Haver describes menopause as a perfect storm of inflammation resulting from three factors:
- Age associated inflammation
- Hormone changes
- Abdominal fat deposit. Dr. Haver describes this abdominal fat almost like it is its own organ, because it becomes inflammatory on its own releasing inflammatory cytokines.
- Estrogen affect how fat is distributed throughout the body; low estrogen can contribute to “belly fat” and visceral fat (fat around organs)
- According to a study by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), an association was found between women with more visceral fat and decreased bone density
- Also increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and premature death regardless of weight
- Increase anti-inflammatory foods
- Decrease inflammatory foods (especially highly inflammatory omega-6 containing oils and foods)
- Practice intermittent fasting
- Increase lean muscle mass/ exercise
Dr. Haver, who created the Galveston Diet, discusses 3 things to implement for change:
1) Intermittent fasting: she uses a 16/8 or 18/6 protocol. One study followed 2 groups that were eating 1200 calories per day. One only ate those in an 8 hour window, while the other group could eat all throughout the day. Both groups lost a few pounds, but only the group that practiced a restricted eating window had reduced cholesterol and inflammatory markers. Anecdotal reports were less joint pain and achiness, reduced symptoms of chronic conditions.
2) Anti-inflammatory diet: Eliminating inflammatory foods and oils found it boxed or processed foods, omega 6 to 3 ratio should be a 1:1 (average American ratio is 15:1!). Dr. Haver gave a list of menopause busting foods:
- Leafy greens: (full of water, fiber (satiety), decreased risk of colon cancer, calcium and vitamin D & K, for bone strength (so important after menopause).
- Salmon: lots of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation. Fat in salmon is satiating, high protein (important in older years).
- Citrus: lemon, limes, oranges, grapefruit, Studies show it can reduce hot flashes.
- Plain full-fat Greek yogurt: Add walnuts, unsweetened coconut flakes, and berries or citrus. Nuts promote satiety, reduces cravings throughout the day.
- Avocados: packed with healthy fats, fiber, nutrients, potassium. Studies show improved lipid panels in people who eat an avocado every day, reduced metabolic syndrome.
3) Move away from carbohydrate dependence: Eat 20-100 grams of carbohydrate per day. This will vary with individuals and check with your health care provider. Abstain from refined grains and sugar as well as low-calorie sweeteners that trick your body into an insulin response. Aim to consume carbohydrates that come from vegetables and contain fiber and limit fruit consumption.
Exercise: lean muscle burns more calories than fat. Engage is some resistance training 3 or more times per week. Walking is also suggested and doubles as a stress management technique.
Stress management: managing cortisol levels is critical for managing weight as high cortisol levels increase appetite and drive abdominal fat storage. Some activities that reduce stress are spending time with loved ones or pets, taking a walk, or supplementing with adaptogens such as ashwagandha, rhodiola, or kava. Avoid high glycemic foods, especially high fructose corn syrup which raise cortisol levels. One ounce of 70% or more of dark chocolate per day has been shown to lower cortisol in studies.