In light of the upcoming holiday! Let's take a look at how a woman's nutritional needs change throughout her lifecycle. This reviews specific nutrient needs during each stage of life and filling potential nutrient gaps that can occur to support women’s health.
Women’s nutritional needs change as they move from one stage of life into the next, and also during special stages of preconception, pregnancy and lactation. Specially-formulated prenatal and post-natal multivitamin mineral supplements for women are designed to meet these unique and changing needs by filling the nutrient gaps that can occur.
Adolescent age 13-18
Adolescent girls have elevated iron needs for two reasons. 1) rapid growth in this stage requires increasing blood volume for which more iron is needed and 2) girls begin to lose blood -and iron during menstruation each month. Between ages of 13 and 18, the recommended intake of iron climbs to 15 mg per day. To accommodate skeletal growth and development, extra calcium is needed, and thus also, extra magnesium and vitamin D. RDI for calcium at this age is 1300 mg/day, which can be difficult to meet by diet alone. Hormonal changes, neurological changes and higher energy needs necessitate adequate B vitamins, especially folate, B12 and B6. Studies have shown that inadequate B6 intake contributes to mood and menstrual difficulties. Finally, omega-3 is required for the health of every cell and especially for brain development. Omega-3 and vitamin D play a role in healthy hormonal function, immune function and healthy skin. A multivitamin-mineral with iron and adequate vitamin D, along with a calcium magnesium supplement and omega-3 fish oil will properly support teen girls during the changes of adolescence.
Adult women age 19-40
In general, women tend to eat less than men. Less food = less nutrition. Perhaps because of this, adult women usually benefit from supplementing B-vitamins, choline, omega-3, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and iron. These are nutrients of concern for men and women of all ages, but especially for adult women for several reasons, one of which is less food intake and less nutrient intake than men.
nother group of specific nutrients for women are phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are protective because they fill estrogen receptors with a less potent form of estrogen, which turns on the receptor, but allows more potent (harmful) forms of estrogen to be metabolized away by the liver. Nutritionists recommended that women include foods with phytoestrogens into their diet everyday because research has shown them to be protective. Isoflavonoids, lignans and coumestans are nutrients in some foods which are weak phytoestrogens. The most common foods containing these nutrients include soy foods, edamame, soy milk, flaxseeds, beans and sprouts.Isoflavonoids – soybeans, soy productsLignans – bran, flaxseeds, beansCoumestan – beans, sprouts.
An important life stage, unique to women, is pregnancy. Women who are preparing for pregnancy should ensure adequate intake of nutrients critical to fetal development such as folate, choline, vitamin D and omega 3’s. Pregnancy significantly increases a woman’s nutritional needs for iron and calcium, and the developing baby needs folate, choline and DHA omega-3 for their brain and nervous system. Lactating women have elevated nutritional needs as well, and appropriate multivitamin-mineral supplementation ensures that both her needs, and her baby’s needs will be accommodated. Supplementation during these stages is absolutely essential to the optimal health of both mother and child.
Adult women age 40-55
Self-care is healthcare, and increasing intake of antioxidants, omega-3 and collagen will support healthy aging. Estrogen supports hyaluronic acid and collagen production, both important for youthful skin, and as it begins to wane, women can supplement with hyaluronic acid and collagen to support healthy skin. Vitamin D and omega-3’s are also important, as is an increase in vitamin C and other antioxidants. It’s never too soon for antioxidant support, because it’s important at all ages, but it’s importance increases significantly with age. In addition to 500 mg of vitamin C twice daily, another great antioxidant to add at this stage is turmeric/curcumin. Curcumin has an exceptionally high ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value, higher than most other foods and spices, which accounts for its unique ability to support healthy inflammation. In addition to increasing antioxidants, omega-3, vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, adding curcumin to the list of daily supplements give women a head start on healthy aging.
Older Adult Women age 55+
Later in a woman’s life, bone health and heart health become increasingly important. A 2015 analysis of NHANES III data published in The Journal of Nutrition found a significant association between multivitamin-mineral use and heart health in women. After controlling for many factors, the researchers found a positive correlation between heart health and multivitamin-mineral use of three or more years compared to non-multivitamin-mineral users.
Bone mass peaks at age 25-30 for women, and after that, it’s an uphill battle to keep bones strong, which is why so many women approaching menopause are concerned with bone health. Calcium, magnesium and vitamin K supplementation become more important than ever. Vitamin K2 in the form of menatetrenone (MK-4) helps support both bone and heart health, and is an important daily supplement ingredient for older women around the world.
Watch Vitamin A
Interestingly, some studies have shown that daily intake of more than 5000 IU (1500 mcg) of pre-formed vitamin A may negatively impact bone health. While vitamin A at higher levels support immune and skin health, the risk may outweigh the benefits for women over 50 who are looking to maximize bone health. Keep this in mind when shopping for a multivitamin-mineral for this age group.
Women have higher needs for iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K2 and B-vitamins at various stages in their lifespan. It makes sense to utilize high quality supplements to address the unique nutritional needs of women based on age, life circumstances and health status, and to assess these needs regularly for appropriate adjustments.