Lose The Belly With HRT

One new study discovered a surprising benefit to hormone replacement therapy—HRT can help reduce body fat as long as women receiving the treatment remain physically active. The results of this study on HRT for the relief of menopausal symptoms were presented at the 91st Annual Meeting of The Endocrine Society in Washington, D.C.

Health Benefits

The study suggests that all kinds of physical activity and not just exercise can provide health benefits for menopausal women, according to lead author of the study, Poli Mara Spritzer, MD, PhD, who is a professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil, as well as chief of the Gynecological Endocrinology Unit at the university's Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre.

Belly Fat

A woman's body fat increases after menopause and tends to collect in the abdomen, said Spritzer. This type of excessive belly fat is a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. However, those women who maintain a higher level of physical activity in menopause have a lower percentage of body fat than those women who are sedentary. Spritzer says that the influence of HRT on body fat percentage in menopause is less well known with some of the data suggesting that estrogen treatment may add to the benefits accrued by exercise when it comes to reducing body fat.

For this recent study, Spritzer and colleagues studied 34 women with an average age of 51 years. The women were all healthy and all had been menopausal for less than 3 years. All of the women had asked about using HRT for the relief of hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and night sweats.

The women were examined before and after 4 months of HRT. Cholesterol levels, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (as a means of measuring abdominal fat), as well as the percentage of body fat both prior to treatment and post treatment were measured. The participants were treated with combined estrogen and progesterone therapy as a nasal or vaginal treatment or as a low-dose oral treatment.  

Every Step

Six days prior to beginning the HRT regimen and again during the final 6 days of treatment with HRT, the women wore pedometers to discover their levels of physical activity. The pedometer measured every step taken, whether through walking, working, household chores, or during recreational activities. The women were told not to make alterations to their usual routines. The majority of participants did not engage in sports or partake of any particular exercise plan, stated Spritzer.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of the women were not sports or exercise buffs, the results showed that 24 of them were considered physically active. The study defined physically active as taking 6,000 or more steps a day. Ten of the women were deemed inactive, or took less than 6,000 steps per day.

Good Cholesterol

Spritzer calculated that if a woman has a stride of 60 cm. or two feet in length, 6,000 steps would be the equivalent of walking 2.25 miles or 3.6 km. Spritzer found that a higher number of steps taken corresponded to a lower waist measurement. The level of activity also corresponded to an improved level of good cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein (HDL).

Meantime, the inactive women showed no changes in cholesterol or body fat percentages. However, in the overall analysis, body fat was seen to decline across the board in significant percentages for all 34 women in response to treatment with HRT.

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