Objectives: The effects of menopause transition on metabolic and cardiovascular disease risk in women are unclear. It is unknown whether estrogen deficiency, aging, or a combination of both factors are independent contributors to a worsening health profile in women. We considered the effects of menopause transition and hormone replacement therapy on body composition, regional body fat, energy expenditure, and insulin sensitivity.
Methods: A brief review of current literature that has considered the role of menopause transition and hormone replacement therapy on body composition, energy expenditure, and insulin sensitivity with an emphasis on longitudinal investigations.
Results: Preliminary evidence suggests that natural menopause is associated with reduced energy expenditure during rest and physical activity, an accelerated loss of fat-free mass, and increased central adiposity and fasting insulin levels. Hormone replacement therapy has been shown to attenuate these changes. Longitudinal and longer intervention studies are needed to confirm these initial findings.
Conclusions: Menopause transition may represent a risky period in a woman's life, 'triggering' adverse metabolic and cardiovascular processes that predispose women to a greater incidence of obesity-related comorbidities. Dietary, exercise, and hormonal interventions specifically targeted at premenopausal women may help mitigate the worsening cardiovascular and metabolic risk profile associated with menopause.