Hitting the age of 50 and facing menopause soon after can be a real paradigm shift for many women, who worry about issues such as weight gain and cardiovascular health. Although weight gain is actually a natural part of aging rather than attributable to menopause itself, the drop in estrogen levels during menopause does tend to result in a redistribution of fat, causing excess pounds to setting around the waist.
The good news is that gaining weight in your 50s is not inevitable. There are many steps one can take to stay at a healthy weight and keep common illnesses at bay. According to a recent study, the Paleolithic way of eating may be helpful for long-term health.
What does Paleolithic Eating Involve?
In essence, this nutritional regime has you eat as our Paleolithic ancestors did, concentrating on seasonal, fresh fruits and veggies, grass fed meat, fish and seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils such as olive, flaxseed, or avocado. Foods to avoid include potatoes, legumes, cereal grains, refined sugar, processed foods, refined vegetable oils, and salt.
No calorie counting is involved; rather, the focus is on avoiding foods that can lead to weight gain. Sugar, for instance, can cause insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes when consumed in abundance, and too many high-carbohydrate foods can have the same effect.
An Important Study from Sweden
The study mentioned above, carried out by researchers at Umeå University in Sweden, found that the Paleolithic diet can help women who are overweight after menopause, maintain weight loss in the long term.
Researchers noted that the results were remarkable, because “Despite giving the women free rein to an unlimited intake, the weight loss (when consuming a Paleolithic diet) was stable after two years. A more significant fact than weight loss was the evident improvement in levels of fat in the blood, and signs of reduced inflammation.”
For the study, lead researcher, Dr. Caroline Blomquist, followed a group of 70 postmenopausal women with a body mass index of over 27. Half the women followed a Paleolithic diet, while the other half stuck to normal prescribed nutritional recommendations.
The results showed that both groups lose weight and enjoyed drops in inflammation in fat tissue and circulation. However, the women on the Paleolithic diet had a significant reduction in unhealthy abdominal fat, which was not present in the other group. Additionally, they had lower levels of specific fatty acids and blood fats. The enzymes involved in fat storage were also lower in this group.
Researchers noted that the Paleolithic diet, which gives prime importance to unsaturated fats, had many positive effects for women in this age group.
Previous studies on both women and men have shown that a Paleolithic diet can reduce cardiovascular risk factors in Type 2 diabetes.
The Importance of Exercise
Regular physical activity is also vital to build and maintain muscle strength. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, even when the body is at rest. There are many exercise regimes catered to mature persons. They generally combine stretching, cardiovascular, resistance and strength exercises, to work on firmness as well as muscle strength (which is also vital for joint and bone health).
In many ways, the Paleolithic way of eating makes sense, in that it provides the body with the nutrients it needs (primarily from antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables) but also aims to avoid shunting large amounts of glucose into the bloodstream. As such, it could help post-menopausal women battle an increased risk of obesity.