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Myths of Weight Loss in Women Over 40, Part 4

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Menopause and the loss of estrogen affect cellular activity, making it more difficult for us to keep weight off, regardless of what we eat.

Myth: Men and women are the same at the cellular level

In general, a man and a woman of the same size and weight will not have the same strength—men have more muscle and a higher exercise capacity than women. This difference grows after menopause, when women experience lower energy levels, muscle weakness, tiredness, reduced exercise capacity and higher susceptibility to weight gain, all related to the loss of estrogen.

However, there is another factor at play. The mitochondria inside our cells are called the powerhouses of the cells. This is where we burn fat, in a process that requires oxygen. Estrogen plays a regulatory role in mitochondrial function, and the loss of estrogen affects the body’s ability to create energy at a cellular level.

The loss of estrogen inside the mitochondria affects how fast that engine is running, how much oxygen is available to allow it to burn hot enough, and whether the cell is creating toxic byproducts that slow the engine down. When our mitochondria are not functioning optimally, we burn less fat and have less energy to move.

Myth: Metabolism is the same in humans as in other mammals

People with higher levels of uric acid are more likely to have metabolic disorders, diabetes, obesity, and other issues associated with storing excess fat. There is a “fat switch” inside the cells that can turn the powerhouse down, causing us to burn less fat. The production of fat is controlled by uric acid—when the uric acid levels get too high, the fat switch is turned on and we don’t burn fat.

There are no animals in the wild (other than those we’ve domesticated and feed) that gain weight uncontrollably. Animals like bears, who hibernate, gain weight in a controlled manner to survive hibernation, but no species except humans become obese.

What happened to humans? We had a genetic adaptation during the Ice Age—a change to an enzyme that allowed this fat switch to turn on. This was a great thing during that period, as it helped prevent starvation. But we don’t need it now.

Menopause causes an increase in uric acid. But it’s reversible! Foods like high fructose corn syrup, sugar, alcohol, processed foods, aged foods and yeasts all trigger this fat switch, so eliminating or reducing these foods can help lower your uric acid level.

Myth: “Fake sugars” don’t cause weight gain

The polyol pathway is the mechanism by which our bodies make fructose out of glucose and store the fructose as fat. This is how our bodies protect themselves in times of starvation. This mechanism is amplified as we get older, and it’s even worse if we don’t drink enough water. Dehydration lowers your metabolic rate, raises the amount of glucose converted to fructose, and lowers energy production at the cellular level.

Another thing that amplifies this mechanism is the consumption of fake sweeteners, particularly sorbitol. So eating foods with sugar alcohols, particularly after menopause, is not the waistline-friendly solution you may have thought.

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