Weight gain is a common side effect of menopause. Whilst it is common, it doesn’t have to be a given, and there are steps women can take to help minimise their weight gain. Many women find weight gain distressing, and it can lower confidence as well as cause other health problems. Part of the reason for gaining weight during menopause is a change in hormonal balance, which sees the balance between oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone alter, and ultimately decline.
The role of oestrogen
During menopause, oestrogen levels decrease, which tends to lead to eating more, and doing less physical activity. This will naturally lead to an increase in weight. However, it is also thought that metabolic rate, the amount of calories used by the body each day, decreases naturally with age. Some women naturally have faster metabolisms, and therefore will use up more calories than others. There are also some conditions which may affect metabolism, such as thyroid problems, which are a common contributory factor to slower metabolisms, and the decrease of muscle mass with age.
Green tea and weight loss
Green tea is a popular herbal drink which is commonly cited as having beneficial properties for weight loss. There is evidence to suggest that it may induce a small amount of weight loss. Green tea contains a component called ‘catechins’. These are a type of natural phenol and antioxidant. Antioxidants absorb free radicals, damaged cells which may be cancer causing, and come from a variety of sources including smoking, environment, food, and chemicals.
One specific catechin, epigallocatechin gallate, has been found to induce thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is the process of heat production in humans and other mammals. Stimulating thermogenesis can stimulate fat burning. Green tea has the highest amount of catechins compared to any other teas (30-40% of the dry weight of green tea). In comparison, black tea only has 9%. It is believed that it is this property that helps promote weight loss. Catechins may also boost your metabolism.
As well as the catechin, green tea contains caffeine, which has been shown to increase metabolism. Whilst it is recommended to limit caffeine during menopause as it may make symptoms worse, including some green tea could be beneficial for its effects on weight loss. Green tea contains less caffeine than regular tea or coffee, so could serve as an alternative for those wanting to reduce their caffeine intake.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at what effect green tea had on fat loss, and found that those who drank green tea lost more abdominal fat than the other group. The study was only small (107 participants) however, the trial was over 12 weeks and did also include 3 hours of physical activity each week.
Limited evidence suggests green tea may also be beneficial for reducing the effect of menopausal symptoms.
The best type of tea to drink for weight loss is green tea. However, there is little evidence to suggest any difference between the different green teas. It is best to choose one which has caffeine in it, too, for maximum results. Also, be sure to read the ingredients list on the box: the fewer ingredients, the better. There are currently no studies demonstrating which type of green tea may best for weight loss. There is also no evidence to suggest that flavoured green teas are less beneficial.
There is some limited evidence that a green tea supplement may be more beneficial to the body than drinking green tea. The study suggests that more flavanols are absorbed from the supplement form of green tea, however, when looking at epigallocatechin gallate, there appeared to be little difference. In terms of weight loss, it is the absorption of catechins which is most important.
There is currently no recommended daily allowance for green tea. However, green tea can have side effects if too much is consumed. Bearing this in mind, it is recommended that you have no more than one cup of green tea per day, and consult your GP before starting to consume green tea if you have a medical condition, or take any prescribed medications. If you are taking a green tea supplement, follow the instructions carefully and consult your GP for advice. Different supplements may be contain different amounts of green tea extract. The caffeine within the tea can also have side effects, especially in those more sensitive to caffeine.
Known side effects of too much green tea are:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Trouble sleeping
A moderate intake (1-2 cups per day) of green tea many be beneficial for menopausal women looking to minimise weight gain.