Post Menopause? Rethink Diet Resolutions

Postmenopausal women regaining lost weight might end up unhealthier than when they started

(RxWiki News) Resolving to shed those extra holiday pounds may sound like a good idea, but for postmenopausal women, maintaining the status quo may be better unless they keep the weight off for good.

Women past menopause who regain weight they have previously lost have different - and potentially unhealthier - body compositions after regaining the weight, according to the results of a recent study. While they lose a mix of fat and muscle, they tend to regain primarily fat tissue if they put the weight back on.

"Consult your family doctor before beginning any weight loss program."

Dr. Barbara Nicklas, the head researcher of the study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said that losses in lean body mass and bone density can lead to other health complications, such as an increased fall risk or increased disability risk.

Regaining lost weight might lead women to end up with a smaller percentage of lean body mass than they proportionally had before they dieted.

Niklas and her team evaluated 78 postmenopausal women who had dieted for another study and lost an average of 12 percent of their body weight to see if the weight some of them regained later had a similar composition to the weight they had lost.

The researchers measured the women's body composition, including changes in their body weight, muscle and fat, immediately after the weight loss and then at six months and one year later.

At the end of the study, three quarters of the women had regained weight, and most of them had regained more than 4.4 pounds. The researchers analyzed the body compositions of this last group and compared the results to the women's original body compositions.

Although their lost weight was two thirds fat, one third muscle, their regained weight was 81 percent fat. The women who regained weight only regained about six percent of the muscle they had lost. Though they might not have regained all the weight they lost, they had a higher percentage of fat after a year than they had before they dieted at all.

The women in this study were mostly sedentary and obese in their abdomen, so Nicklas said the results may not apply to men or younger people.

She added that one way to guard against gaining only fat instead of a good mixture of fat and muscle is to remain physically active and continue to include a good amount of protein in a person's diet.

The study appears in the September issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Review Date: 
December 19, 2011