This Morning: Early menopause sufferer explains symptoms

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Oestrogen has long been considered a hormone promoting natural fat burner and there have been questions as to whether it’s behind the weight gain experienced by middle-aged women going through the menopause. But according to the study’s findings, women “shouldn’t worry” about the menopause when it when it comes to exercise, with experts citing one particular training method to increase how much fat is burnt.

The oestrogen deficiency is thought to reduce women’s ability to use fat as an energy source, leading potentially to weight gain and metabolic health impairment.

To find out if this is the case, a study performed at the Gerontology Research Centre and the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences of the University of Jyväskylä, looked at 42 women, 26 of whom had already passed the menopause.

The remaining 16 women had higher oestrogen levels, seven of the women had not yet passed menopause, and nine were on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Their findings proved that the influence of menopause on fat utilisation is likely “minor” compared with nutritional status or fitness levels.

It showed that the menopausal state or blood oestrogen levels “do not clearly determine the rate middle-aged women are able to use fat at rest or during exercise”.

It also found that post-menopausal women did not differ from women who had not yet reached menopause or were using HRT when it came to burning fat during exercise.

“This was an expected result,” said Doctoral Researcher Jari Karppinen of the findings.

“Women burn fat also after menopause if their energy intake is less than their expenditure.”

The peak fat utilisation rate was measured during a bicycle test, with the highest rates achieved by women with the highest fitness and physical activity levels despite where in their menopausal cycle they were.

“If you want to improve the ability to burn fat during exercise, focus on improving your fitness with endurance training,” Dr Karppinen continued.

“In this case, you do not need to worry about menopause that much.

“Previous research has shown that the ability to burn fat while exercising improves with training even after menopause.”

Endurance training – also known as aerobic exercise – includes activities that increase breathing and heart rate, such as walking, jogging, swimming and biking.

Endurance activity keeps people’s hearts, lungs and circulatory system healthy and improves their overall fitness.

The study also looked at the ketogenic diet (keto diet), which is a current trend and popular choice for people wanting to lose weight.

Carbohydrates and protein are restricted, so people consume a diet high in fat.

Without carbs or protein, the body doesn’t have glucose for fuel so it utilises the back-up fuel, converting the fat consumed and body fat into ketones.

“This is a common misunderstanding,” Dr Karppinen warned.

“A high-fat diet indeed raises the total amount of fat used in energy production.

“However, this is due to increased fat intake and does not mean that you suddenly begin to shed more body fat.

“When energy intake is less than energy expenditure, the weight drops similarly regardless of diet macronutrient distribution.”

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