Recent research into the eating habits of post-menopausal women has given insight into effective ways to combat this.

For women, menopause is a time in their life where changes in hormones make it more likely they will gain weight around the abdomen, rather than the hips and thighs. Changes in hormone levels though cannot be blamed entirely for weight gain at the menopause. Gradual loss of muscle mass with age, and potentially dramatic changes in work and family circumstances, can all contribute to weight gain.

Not all women gain weight after menopause so researchers have turned to these women to see what they do that is different from others.

Conducted in the United States and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers looked at both short-term and long-term lifestyle changes made by almost 500 women in their 50s and how this matched with weight changes. What the researchers observed were very specific eating habits that were linked with weight loss.

Long-term, women who cut back on desserts, soft drinks, cheese and meat, and ate more fruit and vegetables and made changes to their physical activity patterns fared the best.

The key finding of the research was that not all of the dietary changes made early on stuck for the long term. Eating less fried foods and eating out less while successful in keeping weight in check for 6 months, couldn’t be maintained for the 4 years the study ran. The best results seemed to be in cutting back on sugary foods and eating more fruit and vegetables.

So the key message from this research is clear: for women at the menopause, small changes in eating habits that become part of a long-term lifestyle will reap long-term benefits.

This article originally appearaed on Thinking Nutrition.

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