London - Hitting the menopause really can result in a “spare tyre” of fat around the waist, researchers have found.

Changes experienced by women of a certain age cause fat to be distributed differently – meaning extra weight is more likely to settle on the waist, rather than the hips.

That’s why some older women lose their hour-glass figures and become more apple-shaped.

The review by the International Menopause Society also found that, contrary to popular belief, hormone replacement therapy doesn’t cause women to put on weight – and can in fact help prevent abdominal fat increasing.

Review leader Professor Susan Davis of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, said: “It is a myth that the menopause causes a woman to gain weight.

“It’s really just a consequence of environmental factors and ageing which cause that. But there is no doubt that the new spare tyre many women complain of after menopause is real, and not a consequence of any changes they have made.

“Rather, this is the body’s response to the fall in oestrogen at menopause – a shift of fat storage from the hips to the waist.”

Women lose their natural supply of oestrogen after the menopause, which can lead to hot flushes, mood changes and night sweats.

The latest review, carried out to mark World Menopause Day recently, is published in the medical journal, Climacteric.

The researchers found women tend to gain, on average, around 1lb (0.45kg) a year throughout their midlife.

The review also found higher levels of abdominal fat increases the risk of future metabolic disease, such as diabetes and heart disease, in postmenopausal women. The IMS is calling for women to be more aware of the problems associated with excess weight, and to take early steps to ensure that they don’t gain excess weight after the menopause.

Professor Davis said: “What this translates to in real terms is that women going through the menopause should begin to try to control their weight before it becomes a problem, so if you have not been looking after yourself before the menopause, you should certainly start to do so when it arrives.

“This means for all women being thoughtful about what you eat and for many, being more active every day.” - Daily Mail