Obesity and Hot Flashes in Menopause

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Endocrine Society reports heavier women experience fewer hot flashes.

Download the transcription of this podcast.

In episode 48 of the BioBalance Healthcast, Brett Newcomb and I discuss obesity and hot flashes in menopause, a subject recently mentioned in a report issued by the Endocrine Society that hot flashes may be fewer in older, heavier women.

It is true that women with a higher BMI may have fewer hot flashes, something I have observed throughout my practice of 25 years as an OB/GYN. The fact is, that even though obese women may think they’re better off by not suffering hot flashes, they are prone to gaining more weight, have a higher incidence of breast cancer and suffer from diabetes and other dangerous health conditions.

In this podcast we explain how women’s hormones work and what happens when the ovaries shut down in menopause. In obese women, the body fat produces estrone, or what I call “old lady estrogen.” Estrone production is what prevents the hot flashes from occurring. Women in menopause who have minimal body fat don’t have the estrone in their system. Their bodies receive no hormonal signals from the brain to stop the hot flashes.

If your BMI is over 30, you don’t have hot flashes because you’re fat is producing the estrone that keeps them at bay. Women with obesity have the greatest risk of breast cancer—thin women have a lower risk of breast cancer. There is also risk of heart disease because estrone is bad for cholesterol.

Incidence of diabetes also increases in menopause. It’s difficult to loose weight after menopause unless you replace estradiol—young women’s estrogen—and testosterone, which makes you leaner. Estradiol and testosterone help make you leaner and stop that process.

The study looked at women with a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. They proved that women with higher BMI had fewer hot flashes. The way the story hit the press made it sound like the heavier women were healthier.