BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Menopause is just a fact of life for women in their 40’s and 50’s. But now Local researchers are learning more about the effects they feel. A University at Buffalo study takes a closer look at why women gain weight during menopause.
Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley spoke with the lead researcher about why their work is so important for women.
“All those changes in the body composition are happening at this critical part of a woman’s life,” declared Heather Ochs-Balcom, associate professor, UB’s School of Public Health.
That critical time called menopause marks the end of the reproductive years. And for many women, it can come with weight gain.
UB is teaming with the University at Arizona to figure out why.
“There’s a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone that starts to rise in the years before estrogen drops precipitously,” explained Ochs-Balcom.
Over the next five years, a $3.8-million grant from the National Cancer Institute will allow researchers to explore why the hormone is causing women to gain, especially in the stomach area and how obesity creates a breast cancer risk after menopause.
“What we’re essentially doing is digging more into how do hormones drive weight gain, specifically abdominal weight gain,” Ochs-Balcom.
UB will be tapping into local women who have already been involved during the last 25 years in the Women’s Health Initiative.
On UB’s South campus on Main Street in Buffalo, inside a lab, there are freezers where human samples are stored that will be used in this research.
“We are able to follow women’s body composition over a period of 20 years and we have their serum samples at different points during that follow-up,” noted Ochs-Balcom.
Samples UB researchers placed in a straw-like system that is stored in liquid nitrogen tanks.
UB’s South campus also houses an area where women enrolled in the health initiative undergo body scanning.
“Women are measured on this machine and we have a better method to calculate their abdominal obesity, so we’re not just studying BMI — right? — the better way to do is try to break the abdominal fat into subcutaneous and visceral,” responded Ochs-Balcom.
The UB researcher says a study already found if you block this hormone in mice they will gain fat.
“If indeed we do find that this hormone is driving this weight gain there are therapies out there that could block this hormone,” described Ochs-Balcom.
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