Resources / Weight gain and menopause: can menopause cause weight gain?

Weight gain and menopause: can menopause cause weight gain?

Although many women report weight gain during menopause, there is actually no direct scientific evidence that menopause itself results in weight gain, and several other factors may play a part. Menopause is, however, associated with changes in fat distribution, in particular around the abdominal region, as a result of declining estrogen levels.

Below is a specialist guide to the facts about menopausal weight gain and some tips on how to combat it.

Menopause weight gain

How does menopause affect body shape?

During the menopause transition, the ovaries release fewer eggs and produce less estrogen and progesterone. 

Estrogen has an important effect on the functioning of insulin, and as estrogen levels fall, the body’s cells become less sensitive to insulin’s effects. Consequences of this include the increased fat deposition around the abdomen described above, as well as an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes (also called metabolic or insulin resistance syndrome). In many women, this increase in abdominal fat is accompanied by loss of fat from the buttocks and legs, resulting in a sometimes disturbing change in appearance.

Abdominal fat may be present in the tissues under the skin (subcutaneous fat) as well as inside the abdomen and around the organs, where it is known as visceral fat. As well as type 2 diabetes, visceral fat deposition is linked to several other chronic medical conditions, including stroke, heart disease and some cancers.

As mentioned earlier, although there is no strong evidence that menopause itself directly causes weight gain, it’s very important to be aware of other factors that might contribute to this.

What else can cause weight gain in menopause?


One of the biggest contributing factors to weight gain during menopause is age. As we age, muscle mass is generally reduced which slows the rate at which the body uses calories. As people get older, they often become less active, and this may also contribute to weight gain.


Diet and physical health may also be associated with weight gain, and sometimes even menopausal symptoms themselves may contribute. Hot flushes and night sweats may lead to poor sleep, which in turn may lead to tiredness and lack of motivation and energy to exercise, and an increased likelihood of snacking and other unhealthy eating. Research also suggests that poor sleep itself may be a risk factor for weight gain, and joint pain from menopause or osteoarthritis (wear and tear on the joints as we get older) may also play a role in reducing physical activity.

The right kind of exercise is very important during menopause. Aerobic exercises that increase the heart rate and make you breathless are good for cardiovascular health, and weight-bearing exercises such as walking, running and trampolining help to prevent osteoporosis. Resistance exercises and lifting weights help to counter reductions in muscle mass and increase muscle strength.


Genetic factors may also contribute to menopausal weight gain. If extra fat around the abdomen runs in the family, it may be passed on to future generations; however, this is not inevitable and attention to diet and exercise may be helpful to combat this. 

Does HRT cause weight gain?

It’s often claimed that hormone replacement therapy (HRT), used to treat menopausal symptoms, causes weight gain. However, there is no scientific evidence for this, and in fact, HRT may be associated with a reduction in abdominal fat deposition. 

Risks associated with weight gain in menopause

Being overweight in menopause may be associated with increased risk of  medical conditions, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer

It is therefore essential to combat weight gain and make improvements to diet and lifestyle to protect against these conditions.

How to lose weight during menopause

Losing weight effectively requires a combination of attention to diet and lifestyle. The important thing to remember is that weight loss requires long-term commitment 


Physical activity. A mixture of aerobic exercise and strength training will help you keep fit and gain muscle. The more muscle you gain, the more efficiently your body burns calories.


Current scientific thinking suggests that people who wish to lose weight should consume a largely plant-based, high-fibre diet, rich in antioxidants (from coloured fruits and vegetables), oily fish, and olive oil. These foods support the gut microbiome, which has an important role in metabolic health and improvements in weight.

The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms, which play a role in the transformation of vitamins, the extraction of nutrients from consumed food, and the body’s metabolic responses to food. Alterations in the balance of “good” and “bad” gut bacteria have been linked to mental ill-health as well as chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Research shows that the gut microbiome changes significantly as estrogen levels fall during the menopause transition, and these changes may play a part in the increased abdominal fat deposition and its consequences that are seen at this time.

Foods that are high in fibre and antioxidants support the growth of “good” microbes, which have also been shown to be associated with weight loss.  Weight loss will be discussed in more detail here. 

For a thorough exploration of menopausal weight loss, make sure to read the next section, which also covers unexplained weight loss in menopause and how to address it.

Specialist support for menopausal weight gain

Sometimes the symptoms of menopause may feel overwhelming. If weight is a problem, specialist support may be helpful. 

At NewWoman Health, we have dedicated services that help women before, during, and after menopause. Our personalised medical and lifestyle consultations will help you build a tailored, actionable plan to combat weight loss in a realistic way. Our experts are on hand to provide you with personalised one-to-one nutritional, fitness and well-being advice and weight management support.

Book your consultation today to start managing your menopause and securing your future quality of life.

How NewWoman Health can help

At NewWomen Health we have a commitment to educating, advising, treating and supporting women approaching, during, and following menopause. Our wide range of medical and lifestyle interventions helps women to manage or minimise their menopause symptoms and improve their quality (and potential longevity) of life in an aspirational and uplifting way.

If you’re concerned about menopause weight gain or any symptoms you have been experiencing, we can help with our personalised medical consultations with menopause specialists. Take the next step in learning about menopause weight gain and ensuring your long-term health and quality of life by booking a consultation with us today.

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You are not alone. As a local example, in Manchester over 46% of council employees are female and over 40 years old. In a CIPD survey (2019) over 30% of women said they were unable to work because of menopausal symptoms.

Only 25% said they could tell their manager the real reason for their absence. The Council account for nearly 7% of all employment in Manchester. They implemented a new Menopause policy in March 2022. CIPD survey | Manchester Council Menopause Policy | CIPD Manchester

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