Several scientific studies have found a link between estrogen and weight gain, especially for women going through menopause. The estrogen found in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can have several side effects, and weight gain is one of the most common. Estrogen dominance, which is caused by too much estrogen in the body in relation to other hormones, can cause extra pounds to distribute more in the waist region, rather than the hips and thighs, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Additionally, estrogen and weight gain are further connected because estrogen can cause temporary bloating and increased water retention.
Higher than average levels of estrogen and weight gain both generally occur during perimenopause, or the time just before, during, and just after menopause. Both estrogen and progesterone levels decrease around the time of menopause. As a result, the proportion of androgens in the bloodstream increases because the estrogen is no longer available to cancel out the androgens’ effects. Androgens are also responsible for allocating additional weight gain to the middle section of the body, including the stomach and trunk regions.
Hormone fluctuations during menopause sometimes further contribute to an increase in estrogen and weight gain. If a woman’s progesterone levels drop before her estrogen levels or if a woman takes too many estrogen supplements, she can develop estrogen dominance. The increased weight due to water retention is often a temporary side effect of HRT and estrogen supplements, but general hormone fluctuations can greatly interfere with the body’s ability to balance the androgen levels in relation to the estrogen and progesterone levels.
Estrogen and weight gain are also linked in reverse because weight gain can cause an increase in estrogen levels. Fat cells are continuous producers of estrogen, and a large increase in body fat can also boost the amount of estrogen in the body. This in turn can lead to even more weight gain, exacerbated estrogen dominance, and worsened hormone fluctuations, creating a cycle that is difficult for many women to break.
Metabolic changes in the body can also occur as a result of too much estrogen or sudden weight gain. Extra fat in the middle of the body not only increases the risk of heart disease, but it also contributes to insulin resistance and diabetes. It can be difficult to tell whether hormone fluctuations cause these conditions or whether they are a direct result of them, but the various effects are definitively linked.