28/08/2012 10:42 BST | Updated 28/08/2012 10:46 BST

Study Suggests Weight-Loss Becomes More Difficult After Menopause

A new study suggests that losing weight is substantially more difficult for women post-menopause.

According to research by the University of Pittsburgh, maintaining weight loss is harder for ladies in this age group, due to natural declines in energy expenditure.

The new study finds that some behaviours related to weight loss in the short term are not effective or sustainable for the long term.

older women dieting

Lead investigator Bethany Barone Gibbs, explains that a number of factors work against long-term weight loss.

"Not only does motivation decrease after you start losing weight, there are physiological changes, including a decreased resting metabolic rate.

"Appetite-related hormones increase. Researchers studying the brain are now finding that you have enhanced rewards and increased motivation to eat when you've lost weight."

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Combined with the natural energy expenditure decline in women following menopause, it is extremely difficult for older women to lose weight and maintain weight loss.

Interventions targeting these behaviours could improve long-term obesity treatment outcomes, as traditional treatments, focused on caloric intake, have had poor long-term results.

Dr. Barone Gibbs explains that strategies such as eating fewer fried foods may not be sustainable for the long term.

"People are so motivated when they start a weight loss program. You can say, 'I'm never going to eat another piece of pie,' and you see the pounds coming off.


"Eating fruits and vegetables may not make as big a difference in your caloric intake. But that small change can build up and give you a better long-term result, because it's not as hard to do as giving up French fries forever."

"If the goal is to reduce the burden of obesity, the focus must be on long-term strategies because changes in eating behaviors only associated with short-term weight loss are likely to be ineffective and unsustainable," concludes Dr. Barone Gibbs.

The research is published in the September issue of Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.