A major review has found that while menopause does not cause weight gain, it does increase belly fat.
According to research by the International Menopause Society, the hormonal changes during menopause are associated with a change in the the way that fat is distributed, leading to more belly (abdominal) fat.
As a woman's estrogen levels drop, so her body shape will change from hour-glass to apple.
According to review leader, Professor Susan Davis of Monash University, Australia, it's a myth that the menopause causes a woman to gain weight.
Davis said: "Environmental factors and ageing which cause that. But there is no doubt that the new spare tyre many women complain of after menopause is real, and not a consequence of any changes they have made. Rather this is the body’s response to the fall in estrogen at menopause: a shift of fat storage from the hips to the waist”.
Other new research focused on the symptoms of menopause has found that two in five older women admit that their sex lives are suffering.
Nearly half of older women surveyed said they suffer from vaginal atrophy, which causes decreased lubrication, itching or discomfort, and 41% admitted that sex was painful because of it.
The authors of the research said there are beneficial effects of oestrogen therapy but British women are 50% less likely to receive treatment compared with their counterparts in Europe and North America.
The data, compiled from information given by 8,000 women, formed part of the Clarifying Vaginal Atrophy's Impact On Sex and Relationships (Closer) study.
"The Closer study offers the first opportunity to examine the real impact that vaginal atrophy is having on the intimate lives of post-menopausal women and their partners," said Dr Heather Currie, associate specialist gynaecologist and honorary secretary of the British Menopause Society.
"Most people have not heard of this condition, but vaginal atrophy is one of the most common symptoms of the menopause, and also the simplest to treat.
"The challenge remains that vaginal health in older women is still a taboo subject, and even doctors find it difficult to talk to their patients about it."
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