While it’s a well-known fact that women are more susceptible to weight gain and obesity as they approach menopause, little is known about the mechanisms driving this.

In a new concept paper, researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre propose that such problems develop when no changes to food intake or levels of activity are made to counteract the natural biological changes that occur at menopause.

The researchers suggest that the body’s appetite for protein increases during perimenopause (due to hormonally-induced tissue protein breakdown) but if protein requirements aren’t met, women overconsume other forms of energy.

This is due to the ‘Protein Leverage Effect,’ previously discovered by Charles Perkins Centre professors David Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson and applied here to the menopause transition for the first time. This essentially means that without increasing the proportion of protein in the diet, the body’s drive to reach its target protein intake will make us continue to eat unnecessary calories until we do so.

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