Weight at Menopause

Professor Wendy Kohrt, PhD

Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Obstetrics & Gynecology; Nancy Anschutz Chair in Women’s Health Research; University of Colorado – Anschutz Medical Campus

Biological systems age at different rates and the consequences of aging in one system can influence other systems. For example, the decline in estradiol with ovarian aging is known to accelerate bone loss, but effects in other systems are less clear. There is strong preclinical evidence in rodents that ovariectomy disrupts energy balance and causes excess fat gain, particularly in central body regions. The disruption of energy balance involves both increased energy intake and decreased energy expenditure. The latter reflects both the suppression of resting metabolic rate and a dramatic reduction in spontaneous physical activity, both of which are prevented by estradiol treatment. To advance the translation of such findings in rodents to humans, we utilize a pharmacologic model of gonadal suppression to experimentally isolate the effects of sex hormones. We demonstrated that suppressing ovarian function in premenopausal women decreased resting energy expenditure (EE; -50 kcal/d), which was prevented by estradiol therapy. Total EE was reduced by -130 kcal/d. Ovarian suppression also increased abdominal adiposity and decreased muscle mass, both of which were prevented by estradiol. Our studies have demonstrated that estrogens play an important role in body weight regulation in women, but age (or proximity to menopause) may have an independent role.


Wendy Kohrt, PhD, is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and the Nancy Anschutz Chair in Women’s Health Research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. She is the Director of Research for Geriatric Medicine, Acting Director of the Eastern Colorado VA Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC), and Associate Director of the Center for Women’s Health Research. She has received continuous funding from the NIH as a principal investigator since 1990 and has more than 260 research publications. Dr. Kohrt is the Director of the Colorado Specialized Center of Research Excellence (SCORE) on Sex Differences and Women’s Health. She also currently serves as Chair of the Steering Committee for the NIH Common Fund Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium (MoTrPAC).