Apart from the bothersome symptoms of menopause - which may include hot flashes, irritability, mood changes, and loss of libido, among others - weight gain is very common during this time in a woman's life. This weight gain is often unexpected, and happens even in women who haven't made any dietary changes or reduced their activity level.
As you might imagine, there are number of menopausal weight loss products that are marketed to women as effective aids in fighting weight gain during menopause. But are these products really worth it? Before delving further into the various products and their pros and cons, let's discuss the mechanisms of weight gain during menopause, and the associated risks of being overweight during menopause.
There are number of reasons for weight gain during menopause. One is slowed and inefficient digestion that is a consequence of getting older. This keeps food in the digestive tract longer, ensuring that you absorb more nutrients - including fat and calories - from your food.
The hormonal changes of menopause - principally decreased estrogen levels - also cause weight gain. This is because estrogen and fat production are linked; fat cells help regulate estrogen production. When estrogen levels decrease in menopause, the body may try to hold on to as much fat as possible to counteract this drop in hormone levels. Hormones and body fat work together in an intricate biofeedback loop that affects appetite, metabolism, and fat storage.
The risks of weight gain are amplified for menopausal women. Being overweight at any stage of life carries risks, like increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breast and reproductive cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. Since estrogen is a protective factor against cardiovascular disease, risk of heart disease increases when estrogen levels drop, even when menopausal women don't gain weight. For women who are overweight after menopause, the risks of these health problems are compounded.
So, should you use menopausal weight loss produces to control weight gain in menopause? Let's examine a few of these products:
Estrin-D: This product contains a number of metabolism-increasing stimulants. These are xanthine (caffeine) derived formulations like yerba matte, caffeine, and guarana, along with some other innocuous herbal ingredients. While the product does indeed rev up metabolism, there are many risks associated with stimulant-based products. Also, the high levels of caffeine and other stimulants in this formula can cause tachycardia (fast heart beat), high blood pressure, a feeling of 'edginess', and excessive perspiration. Caffeine is also thought to contribute to hot flashes during menopause. These considerations make Estrin-D a less-than-ideal choice for menopausal weight loss.
Zalestra: Zalestra includes a far safer array of herbal ingredients that are designed to create a more gentle increase in metabolism, while treating some of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause. This product does not have the negative health risks of caffeine-containing products.
Estrolean: This product is similar to Zalestra, with a low amount of thermogenic ingredients. It does contain natural estrogen, which is thought to help control some of the hormonal imbalances that often accompany menopausal weight gain.
While some of these preparations may have benefit in reducing menopausal symptoms, they will not cause you to lose weight without eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. At best, they might help a little with weight loss, and at worst they can have dangerous and unpleasant side effects. Not to mention the side effect of emptying your pocket book!
The best approach to weight control during menopause is a healthy, high fiber, moderate fat, whole-foods diet. A healthy diet that emphasizes fruits, veggies, grains, and lean sources of protein, along with adequate amounts of vital nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fats. That is the best way to lose weight during, or after, menopause.