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Do I Need Supplements to Get Rid of Menopause Belly?

Bonny Osterhage

Written by Bonny Osterhage

Bonny Osterhage

Written by Bonny Osterhage

One of the most frustrating things, starting in perimenopause, is the weight gain that can occur, often with no explanation. Described as "muffin top," "menopause middle," or "menopause belly," it’s an area of fat that suddenly accumulates in your midsection and seems stubbornly resistant to diet or exercise.

If you’ve always been active and physically fit, this extra weight can feel even more frustrating. Take heart—you aren’t alone. According to the National Library of Medicine, weight gain is a common symptom of menopause experienced by around 60%–70% of women in midlife. On average, women gain about 1.5 pounds per year during this midlife period (age 50–60 years), independent of their initial body size or race/ethnicity.1 In other words, it's a common problem that can send women down an internet rabbit hole searching for a solution. Many companies are guilty of targeting women with dietary supplements that promise a quick fix, but do they work, and, more importantly, are they safe?

Understanding Why Menopause Belly Fat Happens in the First Place

To understand how to lose a menopause belly, it’s important to understand what caused it in the first place. It's easy to throw the blame under the general umbrella of transitioning through perimenopause into menopause, and while it's true, the decrease of estrogen does play a role, it's not the only culprit.

Other factors associated with a woman’s aging body contribute to the equation. As estrogen declines, the body loses muscle mass. Muscle mass helps keep the metabolism revved up. When muscle mass decreases, metabolism tends to slow down. So, while you may not have increased your caloric intake, your body isn’t metabolizing calories you are consuming as quickly, and your body begins to store the excess as fat, primarily in the abdominal area.

Risks and Side Effects of Supplements for Menopause Belly Fat

It wasn’t that long ago that women suffered through menopause, and its corresponding symptoms, in silence, embarrassed to discuss the changes their bodies were experiencing. Today, however, women are becoming more educated and increasingly vocal about the changes they’re experiencing as well as their desire to do something about them.

In response, dietary supplements for menopause belly fat, that often promise to hold the cure to weight gain, are popping up on drugstore shelves and in targeted online advertisements. Some of the more common ingredients found in these supplements include:2,3,4

  • Caffeine: Shown to help the body break down fat
  • Green Tea Extract: Shown to potentially accelerate fat burning
  • Bitter Orange: An ingredient that contains metabolism-boosting properties
  • Guar Gum: A fiber-rich substance that supports digestive health
  • Chitosan: A unique ingredient commonly marketed as a “fat blocker”
  • Berberine: A chemical compound found in plants that may help to lower blood sugar, support weight loss, and improve heart health5

At first glance, these ingredients may seem harmless and perhaps even appear to be “natural remedies.” But the truth is that there are risks to taking some of these menopause belly fat supplements that you shouldn’t ignore.

For example, the primary extract from the bitter orange fruit is P-synephrine. If you think that name sounds familiar, you’re right. P-synephrine is similar in structure to ephedrine, the main component of the herbal weight loss ingredient ephedra that the FDA banned due to the way it elevated the heart rate and blood pressure in some consumers and caused heart attacks and strokes in others.6

Likewise, caffeine can elevate the heart rate, interfere with sleep, and cause anxiety. Too much caffeine can result in an irregular heartbeat and, in some cases, even death.7 In other words, just because a supplement bills itself as “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe.

It’s important to note that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements as strictly as prescription drugs, which it subjects to a rigorous approval process. By contrast, the FDA does not evaluate the contents or effectiveness of a dietary supplement before allowing companies to sell to the mass market.8Therefore, it’s up to the consumer to do their homework. By this we mean read labels closely, research the active ingredients, look for reviews online, investigate the research and development behind the products, and remember, if a supplement makes promises that seem too good to be true, they probably are.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that some ingredients are more thoroughly vetted and can gain the certification of “GRAS” or generally regarded as safe, from the FDA. It may not be a bad idea to look more closely at the supplements you’re considering to see if they have this specific ingredient indication, as an added precaution.

Alternatives to Dietary Supplements to Managing Belly Fat During Menopause

While some supplements have their place and are beneficial in helping women with certain menopausal symptoms, they are no substitute for a healthy lifestyle.

Combating excess weight gain can sometimes be as simple as tweaking your diet and exercise habits. Studies repeatedly show that strength training can be invaluable for women as we age. Not only does it help with loss of muscle mass and bone density, but the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest.

In addition to adding strength training to your weekly routine, take an honest look at your diet. Are you eating highly processed foods? Are you drinking too much alcohol? Do you have an insatiable sweet tooth? Even if those things never affected your weight before, they can now.

The Mediterranean Diet is just one way of eating that supports the changes our bodies are going through during menopause. It focuses on a protein-rich diet filled with healthy fats, complex carbs, low sugars and salts, and aides in optimizing cardiovascular health and helping to reduce inflammation.

Also, learning to manage sleep and stress can help. When the body is sleep-deprived or over-stressed, we tend to make poor food choices that are based more on comfort or convenience over nutritional value. This can potentially lead us to consume more calories – foods with high levels of sugar content in particular – which may help us feel more awake. These types of dietary choices can certainly contribute to excess weight gain, so it makes sense to look for healthier ways to improve our sleep quality and quantity, as well as find techniques to reduce stress levels in order to avoid these haphazard eating behaviors.

When to Talk to your Healthcare Provider About Perimenopause Belly Fat or Menopause Belly Fat

Before incorporating any diet or lifestyle changes, or adding a dietary supplement for that matter, it’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider first. He or she can advise you on the safest options and look at how different supplements may interact with any medications you are currently taking.

If, despite your best efforts, you are still experiencing an unusual surge in abdominal weight, your provider may also want to rule out any underlying medical issues such as cysts, thyroid issues, or other, more-chronic conditions.

Menopause may make you feel like your body is no longer your own, but you don’t have to give up. While it’s true, some aspects of this transition are unavoidable, weight gain isn’t necessarily one of them. Whether you choose to consider supplements or go with a more natural approach through diet and exercise, you can manage your weight and look and feel your best with a little extra effort.

Resources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9258798/
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coffee-increase-metabolism
  3. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WeightLoss-HealthProfessional/
  4. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/herbal-remedies
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/berberine-powerful-supplement
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bitter-orange#compounds-nutrients
  7. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-979/caffeine
  8. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/five-questions-to-ask-when-considering-health-supplements/

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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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