Menopause is associated with a number of symptoms that can be alleviated through diet and nutrition. Eating foods that are good sources of calcium, such as milk, yoghurt, and kale, can tackle osteoporosis, while getting enough protein can counter sarcopenia.
According to Sophie Medlin, consultant dietitian and chair of the British Dietetic Association for London, women going through the menopause to eat enough protein to counter sarcopenia, plenty of fruit and vegetables, and to “be careful with” ultra-processed foods.
“It may be that in the next few years, we see some great research that tells us something different but right now, it’s really just about general healthy eating advice at this point,” Medlin said, speaking on a recent Food Matters Live panel discussion, How to address the unmet needs of menopausal women.
Nevertheless, millions of women going through the menopause are looking for supplements or functional products that can alleviate their symptoms, and have suffered from a relative lack of relevant products.
UK-based Sam Williams is CEO and founder of Bomimo Nutrition. After going through menopause in her early forties, Williams went to her local health food shop to look for menopause-specific supplements but felt “overwhelmed” by the lack of relevant information on product packaging. She did her own online research on beneficial ingredients for menopause symptoms and spent several hundred pounds on different capsules, tonics, and tinctures.
Format matters: Functional must also be convenient
“The reality was I [took] hardly any of them because of the inconvenience of remembering when to take them, how to take them. That was my moment where I thought: ‘There has to be something easier for women',” Williams said.
Working with a team of nutritionists, she developed Menoshake, a high-protein powder that contains plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals, 12 botanical ingredients including phytohormone red clover, and marine collagen. Bomimo describes the shake as “[hormone replacement therapy] HRT friendly” and a source of phytoestrogen.
Recognising that women are “time-poor [...] and under pressure”’ and that even a milkshake requires preparation, the company is currently developing a range of bars as a convenient on-the-go format, Williams said.
Convenience is key, particularly as women have children at a later age and enjoying fulfilling – but demanding – careers.
Medlin said: “Whereas 20 years ago, people were hitting the menopause at a time in their life when perhaps their children had left home or when they weren’t working, [...] these days there is a generation of women going through the menopause who might still have quite young children at home, parents they are caring for, and in a high-powered job.
“[...] So, women are hitting the menopause at time when perhaps there is a peak in pressures they are under. We need to not underestimate that when recommending dietary advice or talking about lifestyle changes that women should be making.”
Making menopause manageable: What health areas should brands focus on?
There are said to be around 48 symptoms associated with the pre-, peri-, post-menopause and menopause, ranging from low mood, brain fog, weight gain, and heart palpitations to aching muscles, recurring urinary tract infections, and insomnia. However, not all women experience all of them. Medlin suggested would do better to develop specific, symptom-focussed products rather than something generic marketed towards the menopause.
“The thing that companies need to work on is speaking to their target audience and understanding what symptoms they are looking to manage,” she said. “There are really good, targeted nutrients or botanical actives companies can use [...] that could make a massive difference [to specific symptoms]. But when they make a blanket menopause product for everybody, that’s when companies miss the mark.”
For instance, some brands add vitamin B6 to menopause products because it has an EU-approved health claim for contributing to the regulation of hormonal activity. Often, however, companies will add just enough to enable the claim but not enough to actually make a difference to symptoms, Medlin noted.
And while lack of energy is a common menopause symptom, so is insomnia. Manufacturers that add caffeine to give women a hit of energy can in fact worsen their already disrupted sleep patterns. In this case, adding vitamin B6 – which also has an EU-approved health claim for contributing to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and a normal energy-yielding metabolism – may offer a more holistic approach to energy management.