Middle-aged women who want to lose pounds and improve their health during the transition to menopause are considering switching to a ketogenic diet. Do you know how keto and menopause interact together?
Table of Contents
- 1 What happens during menopause?
- 2 Weight gain and belly fat around menopause
- 3 A look at the premise of a Keto diet for weight loss in middle age
- 4 Foods that are eaten and avoided in the ketogenic diet
- 5 Galveston’s menopause diet versus the keto diet
- 6 Does a Keto Diet Help People Lose Weight?
- 7 Does Keto Help Flow Menopausal Hormones?
- 8 Keto Diet Safety Considerations for Menopausal Women
- 9 How long can you stay with Keto?
- 10 Conclusion: Is Keto a good diet for women around menopause?
What happens during menopause?
Menopause is officially defined as the time when the menstrual cycle has stopped for a year, but many use the term to describe the transition process leading to this milestone, and this period can begin years earlier.
Symptoms of menopause include difficulty sleeping, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes. Many women lose muscle tone.
Weight gain and belly fat around menopause
Many women complain that they gain pounds during the transition to menopause, even when they eat the same amount of calories, says Nanette Santoro, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.
In addition, the distribution of fat often moves away from the hips and thighs and towards the abdomen. “Virtually all women gain at least some subcutaneous fat by the end of menstruation,” says Dr. Santoro, which can make a woman feel heavier even if the scale does not move.
This extra fat around the abdomen “seems to be related to hormones, but there is currently no known mechanism,” he says.
A look at the premise of a Keto diet for weight loss in middle age
This weight gain or change in fat distribution drives many women to look for a new diet plan during the menopausal years. Keto is one of those diets that can be recommended to middle-aged women.
With our traditional way of eating, our body uses the glucose from digested carbohydrates to feed itself throughout the day. The premise of a keto diet is to deprive the body of carbohydrates and therefore of glucose, forcing it to resort to a different fuel.
This fuel: fat stores. This fat breaks down in the liver, creating a condition known as ketosis and allowing the body to use it to feed instead of glucose.
Foods that are eaten and avoided in the ketogenic diet
There is no official ketogenic diet, so there are some variations in what is indicated to people who follow the diet.
In general, between 70 and 90 percent of the daily calories in a ketogenic diet come from fat. This is a huge 25 or 30 percent increase recommended by most nutritionists and the 2015-2020 American Dietary Guidelines.
In this diet, between 5 and 15 percent of calories come from protein and only a small amount comes from carbohydrates.
Galveston’s menopause diet versus the keto diet
One diet that is positioned for menopausal women is the Galveston diet. Like keto, this diet provides that most of the daily calories, 70 percent, come from fat, and the rest is allocated as 20 percent lean protein and 10 percent carbohydrate.
Galveston is not technically a keto diet, says its creator Mary Claire Haver, MD, a Texas gynecologist. This is because their meal plan distinguishes between healthy fats such as olive oil, walnuts and avocado, which stands out in the diet, and highly saturated fats such as those found in cheese and red meat. which are included in smaller amounts in the Galveston diet.
Taub-Dix says that while emphasizing healthy fats over heart-damaging saturated fats is good, any low-carb diet is problematic. “Carbohydrates provide the most readily available source of energy and fiber,” he says. Carbohydrates also feed the microbiome, the living organisms that populate our intestines, skin, vagina, mouth, and other parts of the body.
Also, when fats make up a large amount of a diet, they displace beans, colorful vegetables, and fruits full of nutrients, he says.
Does a Keto Diet Help People Lose Weight?
Canadian researchers evaluated numerous studies comparing the keto diet with low-fat diet plans in a 2018 study published in the Canadian Family Physician. They found that when only high-quality studies were evaluated, there was no difference in weight loss between the two plans.
Another review of keto research, published in March 2020 in Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders, assessed very low-calorie ketogenic diets, for which people substantially reduced their caloric intake. He found that this diet helped people reduce their body mass index and waist circumference, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and blood pressure. However, these severe caloric restrictions are not typical of most keto eating plans, and researchers were unable to assess whether the ketogenic aspects or simply the large drop in calories were behind the results.
Does Keto Help Flow Menopausal Hormones?
There are no studies that have looked at whether keto helps with the levels of estrogen and other menopausal hormones.
Some people on the diet say that their hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms help, but others complain that their diet makes them worse.
At the beginning of the diet, people often have symptoms that may be similar to those of menopause. Known as “keto flu,” it can include headaches, fatigue, sleep problems, and heart palpitations.
Some women worry that the keto may trigger menopause, but there is no research or evidence to suggest this.
Keto Diet Safety Considerations for Menopausal Women
Heart disease is a serious problem for middle-aged women because once women go through menopause, they lose the heart protection that estrogen provides them.
That’s why a keto diet that allows eaters to consume large amounts of saturated fats seems especially dangerous for middle-aged women, says Taub-Dix.
Experts warn that eliminating food groups and eating small amounts of vegetables and fruits could lead to nutritional deficiencies if the diet is followed for a long time.
And because of their lack of fiber, many people with keto suffer from constipation.
How long can you stay with Keto?
Most keto studies keep people on a diet for a limited period of time, which means that there is no good research on how long it is safe to eat this way. Experts often recommend that people who want to try this diet see keto as a short-term way to eat instead of a lifelong eating plan.
This is another of his downfalls, says Taub-Dix. The best diet “should be able to fit into your life permanently,” he says. “This is not the kind of diet.”
Conclusion: Is Keto a good diet for women around menopause?
You can lose weight with a keto diet, but a better approach may be to eat a healthier diet with fewer processed foods. Taub-Dix and many nutritionists prefer the Mediterranean diet.