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Is Mid-Life Weight Gain a Fact of Life?

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 14 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Mid-life Weight Gain Weight Gain

What Causes Mid-Life Weight Gain?

As you progress through mid-life you will find your metabolism does slow down. You will need fewer calories to maintain the same weight-after that they reduce at a rate of about 2-4 percent every 10 years. So if you need about 2500 calories a day at 20 years of age, then by 50 years of age you need only about 2200-2350 calories. The most common reason why we need to eat fewer calories as we get older, is because our muscle mass tends to decrease. Between the ages of 30 and 70 years, muscle tissue shrinks on average by about 30 per cent in most people. The reason for this is simple lack of exercise. The problem is, muscle requires more energy to sustain it, than fat, does. So the less muscle we have, the fewer calories we need, and any surplus energy we take in will be stored as fat.

Menopause and Weight Gain

It's a well know fact that women who are going through menopause often tend to gain a few pounds but is there a connection? For some time the question has been controversial but a recent study offers some evidence that the hormonal changes associated with menopause may play a direct role in midlife weight gain. Researchers from the Oregon National Primate Research Centre report that monkeys who had their ovaries removed, resulting in a more rapid drop in female hormone levels as oppose to the gradual drops changes seen during the menopausal transition, had an almost immediate and dramatic increase in appetite that led to weight gain. The fact that this is the first study in which primates have been used, leads researchers to believe that this indicates a strong similarity to humans. Within four weeks of having their ovaries removed, the monkeys had a 67% increase in food intake and a 5% increase in weight. The surgically altered monkeys also had higher levels of the hormone leptin than the monkeys who still had their ovaries. Leptin is produced by fat cells, and increases in body fat means more leptin is produced. This hormone has been shown to play a role in food intake and metabolism but how it does this remains largely unknown.

How to Avoid Those Extra Pounds in Mid-Life and Beyond

The only way you can be sure of maintaining a healthy weight during your later years is to eat less and exercise regularly. You can't get away with eating the same amount of calories at 50 that you were eating at 20. If you do you're guaranteed to gain weight because you body is not burning them in the same way. Here are some top tips to keep off the extra pounds:
  • Don't skip breakfast.
  • Keep an eye on your calorie intake.
  • Eat regular meals.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Get regular exercise- walk for at least 30 minutes each day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid night time snacking

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