The purpose of this study was to examine if fat oxidation was affected by menopausal status and to investigate if this could be related to the oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle. Forty-one healthy women were enrolled in this cross-sectional study [premenopausal (n = 19), perimenopausal (n = 8), and postmenopausal (n = 14)]. Estimated insulin sensitivity was obtained from an oral glucose tolerance test. Body composition was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and magnetic resonance imaging. Fat oxidation and energy expenditure were measured during an acute exercise bout of 45 min of ergometer biking at 50% of maximal oxygen consumption (Vo2 max). Muscle biopsies from the vastus lateralis of the quadriceps muscle were obtained before and immediately after the exercise bout. Postmenopausal women had 33% [confidence interval (CI) 95%: 12-55] lower whole body fat oxidation (P = 0.005) and 19% (CI 95%: 9-22) lower energy expenditure (P = 0.02) during exercise, as well as 4.28 kg lower lean body mass (LBM) than premenopausal women. Correction for LBM reduced differences in fat oxidation to 23% (P = 0.05), whereas differences in energy expenditure disappeared (P = 0.22). No differences between groups were found in mRNA [carnitine palmitoyltransferase I, β-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase (β-HAD), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α, citrate synthase (CS), pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1α)], protein [phosphorylated AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), vascular endothelial growth factor, pyruvate dehydrogenase-1Eα, cytochrome oxidase I], or enzyme activities (β-HAD, CS) in resting skeletal muscle, except for an increased protein level of cytochrome c in the post- and perimenopausal women relative to premenopausal women. Postmenopausal women demonstrated a trend to a blunted exercise-induced increase in phosphorylation of AMPK compared with premenopausal women (P = 0.06). We conclude that reduced whole body fat oxidation after menopause is associated with reduced LBM.
Keywords: biopsy; fat oxidation; menopause; skeletal muscle.