The Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet for Women in Menopause

By Adesso Team | Posted Aug 11, 2023

As women go through menopause, many develop belly fat (visceral adipose tissue) due to the shift in hormones.  Many women are looking for ways to eliminate this belly fat and maintain a healthy lifestyle. More than anything, they want to feel like themselves as they are going through these hormonal changes. One dietary approach that has been shown to be beneficial during menopause is the Mediterranean diet. This diet focuses on plant-based foods and healthy fats. Recent research has shown that it can also be effective in reducing visceral adipose tissue (VAT), a type of fat stored in the abdominal area. Let’s delve into why this type of diet might be beneficial for women. 

A Balanced Heart Is A Healthy Heart

Are you living from the heart? Find out. Take our brief quiz to get your own #LiveFromTheHeart tip sheet.

Take the quiz!

What is Visceral Adipose Tissue? 

Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) is a type of fat located deep within your abdomen. It surrounds major organs like your liver, pancreas, and intestines. Having too much VAT can increase your risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease due to its metabolic effects on the body. It also increases inflammation levels which can lead to further physical damage over time. Oftentimes during menopause, there is an increase in VAT which increases women’s risk of heart disease.

The Mediterranean Diet 

The Mediterranean diet consists of foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish and seafood, olive oil as a healthy fat source instead of butter or margarine, and herbs and spices instead of salt for flavorings. The focus is on eating plant-based proteins and healthy fats, such as omega 3’s.  Omega 3’s are found in fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. This style of eating has been linked to numerous benefits. For example, improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of cancer or diabetes. 

How Does It Help Reduce VAT? 

Recent studies have shown that following a green Mediterranean diet – one high in plant-based foods, multi-grains, nuts and omega 3’s – can help reduce VAT levels by up to 8% over six months compared to those who ate an omnivorous diet with more animal protein sources such as red meat or dairy products. This reduction was seen in both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women without any increase in physical activity levels throughout the study period. It appears that this type of dietary pattern helps lower insulin levels. This leads to decreased VAT levels over time, even without additional exercise or calorie restriction measures. 

The Mediterranean diet has long been lauded for its health benefits. Yet, now we know that it may also be helpful in reducing visceral adipose tissue in women going through menopause. This type of fat is associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases. So, finding ways to reduce it through dietary changes can be beneficial for overall health outcomes. A Mediterranean diet emphasizing vegetables, nuts, multi-grains, plant-based proteins, fish, and healthy fats may be an effective way for women to reduce their VAT levels even without exercise or calorie restriction measures over time! The Mediterranean Diet appears to be the best overall diet for the changes that occur to women during menopause and for overall cardiovascular health.