A number of tests carried out by researchers at the Carlos III Institute of Health in Spain has revealed that post-menopausal women may not get enough vitamin D in their diets, which can contribute to a range of dangerous health problems, including abdominal obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, as well as a number of cancers.
Menopause can be a stressful time for women, both physically and psychologically, as the effort of adjusting to metabolic changes may weaken the body’s ability to defend against various health problems. For this reason, a healthy diet can become a women’s best ally in overcoming these new challenges.
“Biological and physiological changes in women caused by the menopause come with a greater risk of developing health problems in which diet plays an important role”, explains Dr. Marina Pollan, one of the researchers involved in the Spanish study.
A thorough analysis of the dietary patterns of pre- and post-menopausal women has provided significant insight into the potential health complications women can experience later in life, and it has helped scientists better understand how food can ameliorate health.
The Spanish study looked at 3574 of ages ranging between 45 to 68 over the course of 10 months, from October 2007 to July 2008. The women were selected from several Spanish cities, to represent various segments of the overall population. Based on food frequency questionnaires, the researchers were able to determine that the women received adequate amounts of all vitamins, other than vitamins E and D. 29% of the examined women were obese, while 42% were overweight.
“A diet with less fat and protein that is high in vegetables, nuts, and carbohydrate-rich foods will even out the energy balance and corrects levels of vitamin D and E,” explained the science team.
While vitamin D can be obtained from foods of animal origin (such as organic raw milk, fish and egg yolk), there are non-animal sources of vitamin D that vegans can use to improve their diets, and these include natural sunlight and mushrooms. Mushrooms are a 100% raw and vegan source of vitamin D, and just one cup of sliced mushrooms can provide more than half of the recommended daily intake of the vitamin.
Moreover, according to the National Academy of Sciences, “Women who have regular sunlight exposure do not require vitamin D supplements”. While it is difficult to determine the right amount of sun exposure for each individual, a daily intake of approximately 5 micrograms of vitamin D can easily be achieved.
A second study published in the Gynecological Endocrinology Journal reveals a clear link between body weight and hormonal and metabolic changes that come with menopause. The research concludes that through an adapted diet and adequate nutrition, women are able to gain a measure of control over these bodily changes, as well as prevent abdominal obesity and bone tissue loss.