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Nutritional Needs After Menopause (online only)
May 2010
By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

Q:        Do nutritional needs change after menopause?

A:        Key nutrients to increase after menopause are calcium, vitamins B-12 and D; nutrients to decrease are iron, sodium and calories. There are lowered iron requirements once the losses of iron in menstruation are no longer in effect and the apparent need for more calcium to protect bone health when the protective effect of estrogen is reduced.  In practical terms that means less need for red meat or other high-iron foods, and an extra daily serving of a calcium-rich food (for example, milk or other calcium-fortified foods such as juice, soy milk or soy yogurt).  Other changes in nutrient recommendations when a woman passes age 50 are simply age-related:  Some women and men over age 50 are less able to absorb the vitamin B-12 as it naturally occurs in poultry, seafood, meat and dairy products, so recommendations call for them to include daily a fortified food or supplement that meets B-12 needs.  Research also shows that as we get older, we become more sensitive to the blood pressure-raising effects of sodium, so recommended maximum sodium intake goes down from 2300 milligrams (mg) to 1500 mg per day, which requires significant limitation of processed foods as well as salt itself.  Current recommendations for vitamin D increase after age 50, and research is still underway to better identify optimal intake at all ages.  Calorie needs may decrease after age 50, but research shows that much of that drop may be related to decreased physical activity (both scattered throughout the day and as blocks of leisure activity) and the impact of gradual muscle loss resulting in decreased metabolic rate.  So with daily physical activity and strength-training two to three times a week, calorie needs may not need to drop as much in order to maintain a healthy weight.  Thatís important, because excess weight and weight gain are linked to increased risk of several cancers, including post-menopausal breast cancer. 

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $91 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.


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