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Mayo Clinic Study on Low Estrogen Causing Weight Gain Unclear?

Posted May 17 2013 12:00am

That’s certainly my opinion.  The Internet is abuzz with news about a recently released study co-authored by a physician at The Mayo Clinic, which says that low estrogen is the cause of weight gain in menopausal women.

The actual study is entitled, “Adipocyte Fatty Acid Storage Factors Enhance Subcutaneous Fat Storage in Postmenopausal Women” and has been published in several journals.  Most recently The Diabetes Journal.

It caught my attention because what is being reported totally contradicts everything I have read on what causes weight gain in perimenopause and menopause, which is estrogen dominance , rather than low estrogen.

I was bothered enough by this contradiction that I decided to hunt down the actual study and read it for myself. After a bit of academic sleuthing, I was able to download a copy from my university research site which I have access to as a graduate student.

As I expected, it is dry and technical, and certainly not easy to read for the average layperson.  However, the abstract provides adequate information in my view, to conclude that the researchers are not saying that “low estrogen levels cause weight gain in perimenopause and menopause.”

What the study actually says, and I’m quoting verbatim is, “Estrogen has remarkable effects on body fact distribution, and the decreases sex hormone production after menopause is associated with increased total body fat, especially in the central/abdominal region.  Hormone replacement therapy in early menopause may mitigate these changes in body composition and may decrease central adiposity.  Despite the strong evidence that female sex steroids have a major influence on total body fat and body fat distribution, the cellular mechanisms mediating these effects are unknown.”

Okay, so as one who pays close attention to language and verbiage used to communicate, here’s my takeaway: It’s not conclusive.

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