Managing Menopause - optimising nutrition
Welcome to the third and final blog instalment of our three-part Managing Menopause series that will be featured in the lead up to SOF's Managing Menopause event on Wednesday 8th September.
The usual discussion around menopause is often negative or non-existent, so we forget that there are benefits from menopause. For example, we are free from our monthly cycle, including no more contraception along with its side effects. A reduction in fluctuating hormones means fewer cravings, particularly for sweets and chocolate, and fewer fluctuations in weight due to fluid retention. In addition, we can maintain adequate iron levels and decrease episodes of feeling tired.
However, there can be some negative health concerns with menopause. How you experience menopause will generally depend on how prepared you are, both physically and mentally. Some women sail through menopause and enjoy the benefits of this time of life. While for other women, it is a difficult time of uncertainty and health concerns.
Being physically active and eating healthy will help you experience more of the benefits menopause can bring.
Most of us eat from habit, and by the time we reach our 50’s we have established our eating patterns. Reaching menopause is an excellent opportunity to review dietary habits, because optimising nutrition is essential as you transition through menopause and beyond.
The reduction in hormones that occur in this stage of life can significantly impact your health, especially if you are not eating enough food with the correct balance of nutrients. Research shows specific nutrients can support your transition through menopause and reduce the risk of associated health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety that are associated with menopause. Weight gain and joint pain are also associated with menopause, which can also be effectively mitigated through optimising nutrition. For example, nutrients like healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, plant food compounds and protein, will improve bone, cardiovascular system and mental health, so incorporating these will help the body to feel and function at its best during this time.
A loss of lean body mass and an increase in fat mass is commonly associated with menopause. The longitudinal Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (Greendale et al., 2019) found women during the menopausal transition averaged an annual absolute decrease in lean body mass of 0.2 kg and an annual fat mass increase of 0.45 kg. Maintaining lean body mass is vital for bone strength, a healthy cardiovascular system, healthy metabolism, and weight maintenance. To address this problem, dietary protein can be added to a diet to maintain lean body mass.
The body composition changes are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and potentially compromising overall health. For example, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) results found that participants with low lean body mass and high-fat mass had the highest cardiovascular and total mortality risk (Srikanthan et al., 2016). Therefore, maintaining lean body mass is vital in preventing cardiovascular disease and maintaining a healthy weight.
Optimising dietary protein (amount and distribution) can improve lean body mass. Research suggests that a higher protein intake is associated with a higher lean body mass in postmenopausal women (Isanejad et al., 2016, and Meng et al., 2009). For example, in the Women’s Health Initiative study, a protein intake of 1.2 g/kg body weight was associated with a 32% lower risk of frailty and better physical function. Furthermore, the average protein intake of 1.6 g/kg body was associated with a higher skeletal muscle mass index in postmenopausal women. (Beasley et al., 2010).
To learn more about how you can optimise your nutrition for managing menopause, register for the Managing Menopause workshop through this link here. At this insightful event, you will discover more about dietary nutrients that play a crucial role in managing menopause so you can enjoy the benefits of menopause and have fewer difficulties.
Greendale, G.A.; Sternfeld, B.; Huang, M.; Han, W.; Karvonen-Gutierrez, C.; Ruppert, K.; Cauley, J.A.; Finkelstein, J.S.; Jiang, S.F.; Karlamangla, A.S. Changes in body composition and weight during the menopause transition. Journal Clinical Insight 2019, 4
Srikanthan, P.; Horwich, T.B.; Tseng, C.H. Relation of Muscle Mass and Fat Mass to Cardiovascular Disease Mortality. American. Journal. Cardiol. 2016, 117, 1355–1360.
Isanejad, M.; Mursu, J.; Sirola, J.; Kröger, H.; Rikkonen, T.; Tuppurainen, M.; Erkkilä, A.T. Dietary protein intake is associated with better physical function and muscle strength among elderly women. Br. J. Nutr. 2016, 115, 1281–1291. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
21. Meng, X.; Zhu, K.; Devine, A.; Kerr, D.A.; Binns, C.W.; Prince, R.L. A 5-year cohort study of the effects of high protein intake on lean mass and BMC in elderly postmenopausal women. J. Bone Miner. Res. 2009, 24, 1827–1834.
Beasley, J.M.; LaCroix, A.Z.; Neuhouser, M.L.; Huang, Y.; Tinker, L.; Woods, N.; Michael, Y.; Curb, J.D.; Prentice, R.L. Protein intake and incident frailty in the Women’s Health Initiative observational study. J. Am. Geriatr. Soc. 2010, 58, 1063–1071.