Postmenopausal women work out too

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty images / simonkr
Getty images / simonkr

Related tags Menopause Postmenopausal women active nutrition Sports nutrition women's health Joint health

Gone are the days of scaled down, pink bottles featuring thin 20-something women. Marketers are beginning to be more inclusive by offering packaging and products that represent reality: athletes of all shapes and sizes—and ages too.

As the global $42 billion sports nutrition market continues to grow, so do products geared toward women in different life stages. While we still have a ways to go, one noticeable trend in the marketplace and at tradeshows is the marketing of sports nutrition products for older women.

Overview

“The dietary supplement industry is experiencing a significant surge in demand for products that cater to women's health across various life stages. One market segment with great potential is women going through the stages of menopause – from perimenopause to menopause and postmenopause. With an estimated 1 billion women entering menopause by 2025, the global menopause market is anticipated to have a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.33% until 2031.

“We see specific opportunity for products that support premenopausal and postmenopausal women who lead an active lifestyle. Women today are proactively seeking out ways to support their overall well-being, with a significant focus on an active lifestyle. In a recent FMCG Gurus report, 54% of female consumers surveyed said they are exercising more to improve their health and 70% are focusing on improving their dietary habits. Concurrently, menopause often leads to decreased energy levels, disrupted sleep patterns, increased metabolic concerns due to weight gain and challenges in building lean muscle. Active nutrition offerings tailored to address these specific needs have significant growth potential,” explained Paula Limena, Global Category Marketing Director, Dietary Supplements, ADM.

“There are a number of sports nutrition products postmenopausal women could benefit from, but they usually aren’t marketed towards postmenopausal women. Examples would be protein/EAAs, creatine, beta-alanine, caffeine, nitrates and different carbohydrate supplements,” said Katie Hirsch​, Exercise Physiologist & Sport Nutritionist Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina.

Since the research on the effects of these supplements for performance is heavily focused on athletes aged 18-30, Hirsch said we don’t entirely know the extent of benefits or optimal dosing/timing for active postmenopausal women. She added that most supplement research on postmenopausal women is focused on health and menopause symptoms.

“I would hypothesize that many of these sport supplements would be especially beneficial for exercise performance in aging women. As our digestion/absorption and responsiveness to whole-foods/nutrients goes down with age, supplements can provide active ingredients in a more potent and simulating dose that is more easily digested and absorbed. They could also help support the recovery process, which takes longer with age,” Hirsch said.

Nena Dockery, Scientific Affairs Manager, Stratum Nutrition, said that overall the sports nutrition market has lagged in offering sports products targeted to women, and there are even fewer sports products that address the unique needs of postmenopausal women.

“However, on the bright side, the market is growing as more women are desiring to remain as active as possible and for as long as possible. For many women, this time in life is less busy, and provides a great opportunity to learn a new sport. Consumer demand and more women in decision-making positions at supplement companies have provided the impetus for this market segment to experience tremendous growth,” Dockery said.

What women really want

Hirsch noted one of the top cited reasons for using dietary supplements among women is to increase energy and overcome fatigue. Other areas include menopausal symptoms, joint pain/health, hair/skin, mental health, and overall health. She added that many are also interested in ‘clean’ and ‘natural’ products.

“The women’s health and beauty supplement market is also quite large. Women are constantly bombarded with supplement ads that promise benefits, but due to the lack of research and education, women can become overwhelmed by the options and unsure of what actually works,” Hirsh said.

Dockery said postmenopausal women are like everyone else—they just want products that supply the nutrients needed to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

“Women overall need different nutrients than men for optimal physical performance. However, the nutrients needed for women at different life stages can vary dramatically, due mostly to changes in estrogen levels,” Dockery added.

Eggshell membrane

Beginning a new exercise regimen is difficult at any age, but Dockery said it gets even more challenging as women age and their bodies don’t adjust to new movements as quickly as they once did.

One of the challenges facing postmenopausal women is an increase in joint discomfort and stiffness that in many instances is independent of any disease condition, such as arthritis. As a result, Dockery explained there is even less incentive to begin a new exercise routine that could potentially cause even more pain and stiffness.

Enter Stratum Nutrition’s NEM partially hydrolyzed eggshell membrane. It has therapeutic origins as a topical preparation for wound healing, but researchers have found it possesses a distinctive group of components that make it beneficial to joint health.

“NEM has been shown to help improve normal age-related joint discomfort and stiffness and has been demonstrated in both in vivo and clinical trials to benefit joint cartilage. One study​, conducted exclusively in postmenopausal women, investigated NEM’s effects on cartilage preservation and reduction in pain and stiffness associated with beginning a new exercise regime, with results revealing significant improvements in exercise-induced joint pain and stiffness and reduction in a critical biomarker of cartilage breakdown,” explained Dockery.

Probiotics

The hypo-estrogenic status during menopause and postmenopause offers opportunities through ingredients that target energy levels, muscle mass and microbiome modulation.

Limena pointed out research published by Lumina Intelligence that suggests a direct correlation between the gut microbiome and estrogen levels.

“Since menopausal women often experience a decline in microbiome diversity, incorporating microbiome solutions to support gut and metabolic health becomes an attractive option. For example, the effects of our spore-forming probiotic, DE111 (Bacillus subtilis​), show promise in supporting healthy body fat percentage when combined with strength training in women. Additionally, the probiotic and postbiotic versions of our BPL1 (Bifidobacterium animalis​ subsp. lactis​ CECT8145) target aspects of metabolic health. Emerging evidence also suggests that BPL1– in combination with diet and exercise – may help support a healthy body composition and metabolic health pathways. As a postbiotic, BPL1 is a highly flexible solution and can be incorporated into formulations across food, beverage and dietary supplement categories.

“We also see synergies with combining botanicals and microbiome-supporting solutions together, which is also an emerging trend in the dietary supplement industry. Green tea extract, for example, is of growing interest for exercise recovery due to its connection to antioxidants, making it a valuable addition to formulations designed to support active women in menopause,” said Limena.

Soy isoflavones

Limena also explained that plant estrogens like soy isoflavones have been demonstrated to provide support for active women experiencing the stages of menopause.

“As selective estrogen receptor modulators, soy isoflavones like ADM’s Novasoy have shown through clinical research to reduce the number and frequency of hot flashes and help maintain bone health for women during this phase of life. Novasoy is a hero ingredient derived from natural sources specifically formulated to address the challenges women face during menopause. Hot flashes or flushes can be managed more effectively with the inclusion of Novasoy in dietary supplements and functional snacks. It also contributes to maintaining bone mass, mitigating the decline that commonly occurs during this phase of life. This comprehensive approach makes Novasoy an adequate ingredient—a phytoestrogen—for supplements targeting support for active women in menopause,” said ADM.

The importance of research during all life cycles

Postmenopausal women make up a significant portion of the population, and increasingly more of these women want to remain active as long as possible, Dockery said.

“It is vital that research be conducted in this demographic because their nutritional needs are different from those of men or even younger women. Varying estrogen levels can affect multiple metabolic processes, which has historically been a problem for research on women in general, and these variations become even more pronounced as a woman approaches menopause. But to meet the needs of this large and significant group, research must be conducted to provide the best supplements and other dietary recommendations to meet the unique needs of the postmenopausal woman,” said Dockery.

Hirsch said it is important we understand how to optimize performance and recovery throughout all unique life stages to keep athletes competing at the highest levels for as long as they can.

She highlighted the growing number of women who choose to continue to compete at a high (elite) level well into their 30s and 40s–many of whom are returning after having children.

“As women go through the menopause transition, their bodies no longer respond the same way it did when they were younger. By better understanding the many hormonal, physiological and body composition changes that occur during this time, and how to best implement exercise and nutrition, we can better support women through that transition,” said Hirsh.

“Finally, as women who grew up with title IX are reaching peri and postmenopause and public health messaging of the benefits of lifelong exercise continue to increase, many women are wanting to continue sports and activity well into their later years, but energy and time demands from family/child, social, and career responsibilities can make this difficult. Research on nutrition and exercise strategies that helps women feel their best and continue to exercise has significant long term health and societal implications.”

Want to learn more?

Women's health experts will discuss the importance of catering to the menopause market at NutraIngredients' Active Nutrition Summit​ in Amsterdam this October.

The three-day conference will commence with an afternoon devoted to all things women's health. Day two will focus on cognitive health and life-stages nutrition, with day three being focused on personalized nutrition technologies, with the ultimate aim being to help companies translate the latest science into innovative products for active consumers.

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