Contrary to expectations, the higher a woman's percentage of body fat at menopause, the more likely she is to experience symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Such so-called 'vasomotor symptoms' had previously been thought to be less common in heavier women at menopause, because body fat can convert male hormones into oestrogen. Fatter women would therefore have a reserve source of oestrogen that could shield them from these symptoms.
However, there is mounting evidence that heavier women may actually experience more vasomotor symptoms with menopause. To better understand the relationship between body fat and menopausal symptoms, American researchers looked at 1,776 women going through menopause. Fifty-nine percent reported having vasomotor symptoms. As body fat increased, it was found, so did the likelihood that a woman would have hot flashes and night sweats.
The findings contradict the hypothesis that being fatter protects women from vasomotor symptoms. Instead, the researchers suggest that it's possible that excess fat makes it more difficult for the body to dissipate heat.
The findings suggest that weight loss, especially loss of fat, may help women going through menopause to reduce hot flashes and night sweats.