Against all odds? Aging & weight gain
Ever feel like a mysterious shapeshifter is taking your body hostage as you age? It’s no wonder!
Research shows that aging slows the metabolism and increases the likelihood for fat to deposit itself in the abdominal area. However, hormones (i.e. estrogen, testosterone and cortisol) also influence a woman’s abdominal fat distribution.
Among its various functions, estrogen promotes production of a protein – SHBG – that regulates the activity between reproductive (or sex) hormones (testosterone and estradiol) and cells. As estrogen declines, levels of SHBG also decrease, leaving an abundance of testosterone which experts now believe to be responsible, at least in part, for depositing fat in the abdominal area in women.
This process is further exacerbated by cortisol, a hormone that acts as the body’s energy traffic cop: cortisol levels peak in the early morning when energy is most needed, and then gradually decline throughout the day. Not only has it been shown that women have higher cortisol levels than men, but women with larger amounts of abdominal fat experience a disruption in the natural flow of cortisol leading to greater fat redistribution.
So what can you do to beat the odds?
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: study findings show that moving is critical! In fact, women eating a usual diet who exercised at least an hour a day at moderate intensity were significantly likelier to maintain their weight over a 10-year period, compared to women who exercised anywhere from 20 minutes to under an hour a day, or even less. (In this study, exercise referred to aerobic walking, running jogging, bicycling, dance, use of exercise machines, yoga, tennis, squash racquetball or lap swimming).
- Restraint is the new black: Taking a more restrained approach to eating can help maintain weight. In a three-year study, women who did not restrain their eating had a 138% greater risk of gaining more than 6.6 lbs and a 49% greater risk of gaining more than a 1% point in overall body fat than their peers who did.
- No bones about it; moderation is key: Cutting back on carbs to keep slim? If you are approaching menopause, you may want to rethink that strategy. Research shows consuming a daily diet that consists of 30% protein ups the risk for bone mass loss and osteoarthritis. This can be dangerous since women naturally start to lose bone density and strength after the age of 35; by the time they enter their 50s, have a 40% increased risk for fracture. During the first five years after menopause, women can experience as much as a 30% loss of bone density.
- The skinny on fat: It’s true that aging can mean a slowing of metabolism and as women, a deposit of fat around the midsection. But we need good fats in our diet for blood sugar control and even heart prevention, including monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds) and polyunsaturated fats (found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and trout and in walnuts and sunflower seeds).
Just an hour a day may keep you on the fast track to successfully controlling that jelly in your belly. Add a restrained, sensible and balanced approached to eating and you’ll truly be ahead of the curve, literally and figuratively!
Welcome to the Supplemental!
The Supplemental is a blog for "Life...supplemented", a forum for discussion around healthy diet, supplements and exercise. Our panel of experts who share a variety of fresh and innovative perspectives, will provide ways to live a healthier life and inspire you to make smart choices.
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