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Metabolism. 2001 Aug;50(8):976-82.

Abdominal fat distribution in pre- and postmenopausal women: The impact of physical activity, age, and menopausal status.

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Department of Exercise Science, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA.


Age-related increases in total body fat have been reported, but the impact of menopause on abdominal fat distribution is still unclear. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of menopausal status on abdominal fat distribution using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In addition, we investigated the influence of abdominal fat distribution on blood lipid profiles and leptin concentrations. Twenty-three premenopausal (PRE), 27 postmenopausal (POST), and 28 postmenopausal women on estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) had measurements of regional abdominal fat, blood lipids, and serum leptin concentrations. The women were matched for body mass index (BMI) and total body fat mass. Age and menopausal status were not found to be significant predictors of total abdominal fat, visceral fat, or subcutaneous fat, while physical activity was a significant predictor (P <.01) for total abdominal fat (R(2) =.16), visceral fat (R(2) =.32) and percent visceral fat (R(2) =.25). There was a trend for a greater visceral fat content in the POST women compared with the PRE women (2,495.0 +/- 228.4 v 1,770.4 +/- 240.8 cm(2), respectively, P =.06). The percent visceral abdominal fat was significantly lower (P <.05) in the premenopausal women than in either postmenopausal group (PRE, 23.2% +/- 1.7%; POST, 28.9% +/- 1.8%; ERT, 28.9% +/- 1.6%). Menopausal status and age did not influence any of the blood lipid values. Abdominal fat distribution was a significant predictor of cholesterol concentrations and the cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) ratio, but only accounted for approximately 15% of the variability in these levels. Total body fat and physical activity accounted for 47% of the variability in leptin concentrations, while abdominal fat distribution, age, and menopausal status were not significant predictors. In conclusion, in early postmenopausal women, the level of physical activity accounts for the variability in abdominal fat distribution observed, while menopausal status and age do not play a significant role. ERT was not associated with additional benefits in abdominal fat distribution compared with postmenopausal women not on ERT or in the blood lipid profile in these women.

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