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Why is visceral fat a problem during Menopause?

What is visceral fat?

Visceral fat is is belly fat that is found deep within the abdominal cavity. It surrounds important organs, including the stomach, liver and intestines.

The difference between subcutaneous fat and visceral is that subcutaneous fat is found just below the skin. Visceral is more detrimental to our health as it surround our organs and is much deeper and therefore harder to loose.

Visceral isn't always visible as it sits so deeply however for women during the menopause it normally is visible as the waist line starts to expand. Everyone will have a small percentage of visceral fat and a normal range would be approximately 10%. This is obviously hard to evaluate by the eye, however generally a rise in subcutaneous fat will normally result in a rise in visceral fat too, but always the case, especially through the menopause.

Why is this a problem during the menopause?
Due to the fluctuation of our sex hormones during this time, our blood sugar management becomes more challenging. This is due to a greater sensitivity to glucose causing more insulin to be produced. The drop in oestrogen and progesterone which helps to regulate two powerful hormones that govern our appetite, leptin and ghrelin cause these hormones to create a greater hunger and lessen our feeling satiety.
This can be a vicious cycle for many women not being able to resist simple carbohydrates and refined sugar exasperating the insulin production the fat storage and build up around the liver and the surges of cortisol from the adrenal glands.

How can we prepare our bodies for this change in our hormone levels?
We can't prevent the drop in our sex hormones and this is a very natural part of aging and a period in life to be celebrated, as so many women aren't fortunate enough to reach the menopause.
There are some very affective ways we can prepare our bodies and our minds as we enter this stage.


As our insulin resistance becomes more challenged we need to give it a helping hand by not making it work so hard. By reducing our glucose intake and adding fibre into our diet this will reduce the need to constantly produce insulin by the pancreas, take the pressure off the liver to store the glucose potentially overloading the liver and causing visceral fat to begin to store and allowing the adrenal glands to rest in producing cortisol.
Fibre is extremely important during this stage as this will slow down the glycemic index of foods resulting in a more balanced blood sugar. The glycemic index is the measure of how fast the food that you eat transfers into glucose resulting in high blood sugar and setting off the roller-coaster of events for the adrenal glands, pancreas and liver. For women in the perimenopause and menopause phase of their lives i would recommend daily intake of 25g which can be achieved with fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods. Protein is vital to perform muscle synthesis, which the process where the muscle rebuild and repairs after resistance training. Many women are protein deficient and i strongly recommend ensuring the protein intake should be a minimum of 20g of protein eaten x4 a day.
The recommendation for women to build muscle mass is between 1.2g - 1.6g of protein per kg of ideal body weight.


As we age we loose approximately 1% of our muscle mass per year. For women this begins in our 30's and can contribute as we age to frailty and a lack of mobility. Muscles are great storage for our glucose in the form of glycogen. The larger amount of muscle mass we have the greater amount of storage we have taking the pressure off of our liver to store our energy. Our body composition is vitally important and i would always recommend strong over skinny. The best way to start to change your body composition is to introduce resistance training. This needs to have a progressive load to encourage the muscle mass to increase. It also needs to be in combination with sufficient protein intake to help the muscles grow and build.

These two principles introduced in our 30's will prepare the body for the shift in our sex hormones and help to prevent the build up of visceral fat and many other symptoms of the menopause.


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