Women may be especially vulnerable to weight gain during three key periods of their lives, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO). Investigators examined the causes of weight gain in women at the beginning of their menstrual cycle, after pregnancy and after menopause.
In young girls, early onset of menstrual cycling may operate in the development of obesity. Support for this theory comes from two studies, conducted by researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. Puberty, the hormonal transition of adolescence, has been identified as a potentially critical period in the development of obesity.
Weight retention following pregnancy may be a factor in the obesity of young women, according to an overview of research, presented by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While most women experience a modest weight gain after pregnancy, obese women are at risk for substantial weight gain. Weight gain after pregnancy may reflect changes in lifestyle behaviors rather than physiological changes associated with giving birth, say researchers.
Weight gain during menopause may be significantly prevented by long-term changes in dietary intake and increased physical activity, according to findings of the Women's Healthy Lifestyle Project, a five-year, randomized clinical trial, funded by the National Institutes of Health. Weight change in the older woman may be more strongly associated with aging than with menopause.
However, post-menopausal women have higher levels of body fat and central adiposity than other women the same age. The weight that many women gain during menopause is associated with increased cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.
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