Body fat distribution in pre-and post-menopausal women: metabolic and anthropometric variables

J Nutr Health Aging. 2002;6(2):123-6.


Background: Abdominal obesity is associated with coronary risk although the causality is not well established.

Objective: To compare body fat distribution and metabolic variables in obese pre- and post- menopausal women.

Design: The study was conducted in 55 obese female subjects (22 pre- and 33 post- menopausal) with body mass indices (BMI) from 27 to 35 Kg/m2. Body fat distribution was measured using waist and hip circumference and computerized tomography. Hormones such as estradiol, testosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate, as well as plasma lipids such as triglycerides, total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein, low density lipoprotein, apoproteins A and B, were also determined.

Results: No significant differences were found between the two groups in BMI, percentage of body fat, waist circumference, triceps, biceps, suprailiac and abdominal skinfolds. Hip circumference, subscapular skinfold and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue area were significantly lower, and waist-hip ratio, visceral area and visceral to subcutaneous area ratios significantly higher in post- menopausal women (P < 0.05). As was expected, basal plasma estrogens, and dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate, were significantly higher in pre-menopausal women. When comparing plasma lipids, blood cholesterol and low density lipoprotein, values were significantly higher in the post-menopausal group (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: Our data suggest that body fat distribution changes according to menopausal status, with central obesity more pronounced in post- menopausal women. Metabolic abnormalities are related more to visceral adipose tissue and estrogen plasma levels than to BMI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Constitution / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood
  • Estrogens / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Postmenopause / blood
  • Postmenopause / metabolism*
  • Premenopause / blood
  • Premenopause / metabolism*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Viscera


  • Estrogens
  • Triglycerides
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Cholesterol