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New Research Reveals Why Menopausal Women Should Minimize Saturated Fats

You may have read in previous posts or articles my recommendation that menopausal women should look to minimize their saturated fat intake.

It’s long been my understanding that the reason for this had to do with the loss of estrogen and resulting tendency to store excess triglycerides in visceral fat cells.

Researchers have recently come closer to identifying the underlying metabolic reasons for the increased fat storage, and thus associated weight gain.

It appears the connection lies with an enzyme that gets activated with fat consumption, the suppression of which goes down as estrogen levels fall. That enzyme is Aldehyde Dehdrogenase 1 or (Aldh1A1) in case you really wanted to know the name of this little devil.

More after the jump…

In all fairness the latest research comes from studies conducted on mice, but scientists believe it provide clues to what may happen in humans and could lead to gender specific anti-obesity therapies in the future.

I’ll provide a condensed run down on what the researchers have found, but if you’d like to get all the details you can read the full story as reported in Science Daily News.

In essence, here’s what happens. This Aldh1a1 enzyme works to activate a hormone called retinoic acid, which promotes the storage of visceral fat. When higher levels of saturated fat is consumed the enzyme activates this retinoic acid hormone under certain conditions.

What seems to be the mitigating factor here is the presence of estrogen. It appears that estrogen serves to suppress activation of this hormone when levels are adequate.

However, when estrogen levels drop as is the case with menopause, the ability of the body to suppress activation of this fat storing hormone goes down with it.

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Now you can understand a little better why weight gain may occur during menopause when the diet has stayed pretty much the same. This is cutting edge stuff as researchers are just now learning more and more about the hormonal impacts on fat storage as it relates to different genders and ages.

It’s not just a matter of eating less and exercising more. While certainly dietary and exercise habits play in role in body weight regulation at any age, there are metabolic differences with varying ages and hormonal balances.

As a woman’s body loses estrogen with menopause, there are a host of metabolic changes that accompany the hormonal shifts. Others include decreased insulin sensitivity, protein synthesis, thyroid hormone attenuation, etc. The bottom line is yes, you’ll want to shift your diet to go along with the hormonal shifts.

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Reducing saturated fat consumption appears to be a wise consideration along with reducing the amount of starch carbohydrates and simple sugars.

Menopausal women tend to do better in my experience with more of a Primal Blueprint or Paleo type diet that is naturally low in starches. Not that you have to follow any “diet” per say, but the common denominators seem to be improved body weight regulation with higher amounts of protein, fiber, vegetables, and moderate consumption of unsaturated fats.

So yes, less consumption of foods high in saturated fat and more lean protein, low glycemic fruits, vegetables, etc. Fermented foods are also a plus to help establish a healthy GI tract, which is often compromised with the hormonal shifts associated with menopause. Taking probiotics and digestive enzymes may also be beneficial.

The key here is not to necessarily starve yourself and drastically cut back on calories if you start gaining weight with menopause. That’s likely to simply result in a decreased metabolism and suppressed thyroid hormone production. In other words, you’ll make it easier for your body to store excess energy as body fat.

A supportive nutrition diet that meets energy demands and provides sufficient nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes to preserve lean muscle (and optimally help continue to build it with the presence of resistance training) seems to be the best protocol.

Of course aerobic exercise will also be an important part of the equation. Just don’t expect to see significant weight loss from crash dieting and spending hours on the treadmill if you’re menopausal. That may have worked when you were in your twenties and early thirties, but it won’t work so hot when you get older.

Both resistance and cardiovascular exercise are extremely valuable, just don’t expect excessive amounts of either to work in your favor. Your diet will be the key factor in regulating body weight along with strategies to stabilize hormonal balances.

Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios provide fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today.

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