International Women’s Day: Kerry highlights precision nutrition’s role from puberty to post-menopause
08 Mar 2023 --- Kerry released ten key health and nutrition trends in 2023, with a particular focus on women’s health. In light of International Women’s Day, we look at Kerry’s report, which examines the changes in the physiological and nutritional needs of women – from adolescents to post-menopause – while pointing out that the majority of research to date has been devoted to male health.
As women require specific nutritional recommendations throughout life, the report stresses the essence of understanding how nutrition supports health, sleep, exercise performance and overall quality of life for women, as it differs from men.
“While the market is increasingly focusing on women’s health needs, that focus tends toward overall women’s health, as opposed to individual ingredients designed for their unique needs throughout a woman’s life,” Monica Maria Olivares, RDA director for women and infant health at Kerry, tells NutritionInsight.
“There is ample opportunity for manufacturers to develop products that meet women’s specific needs by focusing on ingredients designed to meet those exact needs,” she adds.
Women face a “hidden hunger”
The report details that adolescent females have an increased need for calcium to strengthen bone density throughout life.
“A deficiency in calcium at this life stage can result in an increased risk of osteoporosis post-menopause – when the protective effects of estrogen decline. Understanding the specific nutritional requirements at each female life stage has become popular for women, who are increasingly monitoring diet, menstrual cycle and lifestyle data using technology,” says the report.
Women have a longer life expectancy than men, although they have a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies. A recent global study published in Lancet Global Health showed that one in three women of reproductive age suffers from hidden hunger – nutrient and mineral deficiency of either zinc, iron, folate or vitamin A.
Nutrient deficiencies may lead to chronic diseases such as stroke, osteoporosis, cancer and cardiovascular disease. “Much of the knowledge and research on these diseases has been conducted on males. Consequently, females take four years longer than men to be diagnosed with over 700 different diseases,” Kerry details.
Top-ranking women’s health concerns
Olivares details research showing that women’s top health concerns include specific issues, such as fertility, menopause and more universal problems, like heart health.
“Fertility, maternal health, breastfeeding and menopause: The National Institute of Health reports that women’s top health concerns include reproductive issues, including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome as well as an interest in balancing levels of vital hormones like estrogen and progesterone, which can influence a woman’s health throughout her life,” she underscores.
“Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women, according to the Go Red for Women foundation, causing one in three deaths annually. The foundation also notes the connection between risk and certain life stages, like pregnancy and menopause, where hormonal balance is fluctuating and adds that stress can also contribute,” says Olivares.
Other common concerns are stress, gastronomical and mobility issues.
“Studies suggest that caretaking often falls to women. Oxfam reports that women undertake more than 75% of unpaid care work globally, which can leave them overburdened with stress. Unfortunately, stress’s impact on overall health can be detrimental – stress is a known threat to a healthy immune system. In addition, stress can affect sleep quantity and quality, affecting overall well-being.
The trend report also details that research has shown a difference in gut motility and microbiome among men and women, which might explain its role in digestive symptoms.
“As we move into the era of precision nutrition research, using big data to understand gender-based differences will optimize nutritional interventions to support health,” notes the report.
She further details that digestive and immune health are correlated with each other for female well-being. “While maintaining a healthy digestive system can help with nutrient absorption, supporting it provides immune health benefits too.”
Recently, an investigation from the personalized nutrition company Zoe showed that following a gut-friendly diet might help ease off menopause symptoms. Additionally, another study showed that CBD might benefit gut and bone health, contributing to a lower inflammation rate and improving estrogen deficiency.
As for joint health and mobility, fluctuating hormonal levels may contribute to conditions like arthritis, she notes.
“The focus on addressing female-specific nutritional needs continues to grow with innovative product launches in supplements for pregnancy, breastfeeding, infertility, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, menopause, premenstrual cycle symptoms, breastfeeding, stress, heart health, immunity and digestive health,” the Kerry report concludes.
By Beatrice Wihlander
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