For middle-aged women, especially after menopause, it seems as if gaining weight is a fact of life, almost like a rite of passage. Your bones get weaker while your abdomen grows and your body becomes heavier. But what if that need not be the case? A recent study came up with some shocking revelations that may seem too good to be true.
Besides a slowing metabolism rate, why is it that women gain more weight as we grow older and enter menopause? Well, menopause’s main highlight is that it stops the maturation of the ‘eggs’ in the ovaries, meaning that a woman stops having her period and therefore, no longer be able to get pregnant. Unfortunately, that very fact is also what brings on the consequences of weight gain when one ages, and it’s all thanks to the follicle-stimulating hormone.
The follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH for short, is the one in charge of making sure that we can produce children, as it drives up the maturation of follicles in women and production of semen in men. For the most part, FSH was thought of as a harmless hormone which ended once we entered old age. However, production of FSH does not stop for women going through menopause and instead, the FSH is what causes abdominal fat gain and it also starts decreasing the level of bone density in women even though women still get a healthy dose of estrogen, which helps to increase bone density.
So then, if FSH is the clear culprit for the increase in fat and decrease in bone, what can be done? It seems like stopping its production is the way to go!
At least that was the theory proposed by Dr Mone Zaidi, a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, who noticed the effects of FSH in the bodies of women. To test out this theory, the doctor held an experiment in which a group of mice were administered an antibody that would cancel out the FSH hormone.
What he found out was that, when administered to mice whose ovaries had been removed, the lack of FSH resulted in an increase in estrogen, which in turn generated bone growth, weight loss and even an increase in physical activity. It was an extraordinary discovery, and after years of running tests on mice alongside his colleague Dr Clifford J. Rosen, a bone specialist at Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Dr Zaidi was able to replicate the effects of his initial test in humans. They also realised that the consequences of the FSH suppression might be triggering an increase in brown fat, a type of fat that burns calories usually seen more in children, as opposed to white fat which stores energy (and thus calories).
Dr Zaidi wasn’t the only one who had taken an interest in the way menopause changes women’s bodies. A professor at the University of Colorado, Dr Wendy Kohrt, had already started her series of experiments on premenopausal women.
After giving her subjects a drug that prevents the release of both estrogen and FSH, Dr Kohrt noticed one peculiarity – women who took the drug saw an increase of fat in their abdomens of up to 11 percent along with a decrease in calorie burning. Naturally, she decided to take out only FSH and increased the level of estrogen, which in turn saw an increase in bone density and weight loss.
What about men then? Men who are suffering from prostate cancer usually take Lupron, a drug that stops the production of testosterone which often fuels the growth of the tumours, and men normally gain abdominal fat while on the drug.
Lupron also blocks the the production of FSH and according to the mice experiments, should prevent weight gain. However, men are probably still gaining weight due to the lack of testosterone. In an experiment, men were given Lupron as well as testosterone, ensuring that only FSH is blocked, but these men still did not lose weight. Thus, this goes to show that there is more than FSH at play when it comes to weight gain or loss.
Easy weight loss is too good a dream to give up and researchers are still planning human trials to see whether the FSH antibody would work. The results are still yet to be known but one can only dream and in the meanwhile, all of us need to put in the necessary discipline and work to keep fit and healthy!
Sources: The New York Times
Photo Credits: Julie Dennis, Stefano Marianelli, Shutterstock, Pixabay