Today a friend asked me how I am able to bake and eat bread so often, yet stay trim, when there are studies showing that menopausal women increase their “central body fatness and insulin resistance” (as the research authors so eloquently put it!!) unless they decrease their carbohydrate intake (bread is mainly carbs).
As this is the time of year when many women in my cohort (that’s just a fancy word for “age posse”) are making frustrating resolutions about weight loss, I thought I’d answer that question for all of you too!
Carbs and Belly Fat
The answer is simple; it’s the same answer I learned in grad school for counseling. The answer is “It Depends.” I’ll lay out some info and you can decide for yourself. Keep in mind that everyone’s different. I’m a physiologically identical twin, yet we are different sizes with different eating habits, and no definitive research saying our differences are carb-related!! If my sis gave up carbs, she might lose deep abdominal fat, while I might stay the same and cry about being separated from my beloved bread. It just depends…
Here’s what we currently know:
* Menopause coincides with an increase in several comorbidities including cardiovascular disease
* Central body fatness and insulin resistance are components of a cluster of metabolic abnormalities which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease
* Studies suggest that the menopause transition is associated with an increase in abdominal and visceral adipose tissue accumulation
* The effects of menopause on insulin resistance appear to be moderate, if any, although available studies are insufficient to draw firm conclusions
* A modest reduction in consumption of carbohydrate foods may promote loss of deep belly fat, even with little or no change in weight
* Losing belly fat can help reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, stroke and coronary artery disease
* Subjects in a 2011 study who consumed a moderately carb-restricted diet (43% percent calories from carbohydrates, 39% from fat, 18 from protein), had 11 percent less deep abdominal fat than those study participants who ate a standard diet (55% from carbs, 27% from fat, 18% from protein)
Cut The Carbs…Or Not
Should you base your decision on just a few studies? Probably not, though you would be wise to see if further research gets to a tipping point as more studies are done. But if you’re the kind of person who can wait 25 minutes for bread to bake, but not a year or two for more studies, become your own experiment. Try eating a moderately carb-restricted diet for a few weeks, using the percentages listed above. Or, if you don’t want to spend lots of time doing food math, pull all starchy carbohydrates from your diet, then reintroduce them one at a time. This includes breads, pastas, rice, grains, oatmeal, potatoes, legumes (beans) and squash. If a reintroduced food gives you cravings, bloating, digestive discomfort or mood swings, it might be time to say bye-bye to to it.
To go back to the original question, I don’t know how I’m able to bake and eat bread so often, yet stay trim. Maybe my intra-abdominal fat never read the studies. Maybe my body doesn’t know that I’m in the menopause years. Maybe all my exercise counteracts the “food belly bloat.” Maybe my fondness for organic food and ingredients over processed or packaged foods helps. Maybe it’s because I only eat a few bites of the things I bake. If I were to guess, I’d go with the organic food and ingredients answer. But a guess isn’t science.
One day I’ll have to do the food removal/ reintroduction test on myself. Until then, I guess my answer is “It Depends.”
If you want further info about bread and wheat, read our post “Is Wheat Free Better for You?”. You probably know the answer.
For further tips on making nutrition changes to your diet, read “Hormones and Weight Gain: Why Nutrition Matters” by our friend Tamara Grand, a personal trainer and scientist.
While your bread’s in the oven, run to your computer and follow us on Google +Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.
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