A recent study published in the Nutrients Journal compared menopausal symptoms and food consumption in post-menopausal women before and during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Study: Changes in Food Consumption in Postmenopausal Women during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Longitudinal Study. Image Credit: GroundPicture/Shutterstock.com
The pandemic has significantly impacted global health systems, the economy, and the food supply. Post-menopausal women's dietary habits and symptoms during the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak are crucial for mitigating long-term health problems.
Studies show that post-menopausal women tend to have higher sugar and refined carbohydrate intake, leading to increased psychological, vasomotor, urogenital, and somatic symptoms and sleep disturbances.
Conversely, patterns involving vegetables, whole grains, and unprocessed foods lower the intensity of menopausal symptoms. Access to healthy foods and regular consumption of healthy foods can reduce susceptibility to COVID-19 and its long-term consequences. Understanding these habits and their relationship with post-menopausal symptoms is essential for healthcare planning.
About the study
In the present longitudinal study, researchers assessed changes in dietary patterns of post-menopausal women associated with the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.
The survey-based study was conducted on post-menopausal (12 months after the last menstrual period) Brazilian women aged 40 years and older from January 2018 to 2021.
The team used the Women's Health Questionnaire (W.H.Q.), the Kupperman-Blatt Menopausal Index (K-BMI), the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (I.P.A.Q.), the World Health Organization (WHO) scale, and one-day dietary recalls for data collection.
The questionnaires included anthropometric (body mass, waist circumference, and height), sociodemographic (ethnicity, age, marital status, education, and income), clinical (participant's age at menopause), and lifestyle (alcohol intake and smoking status) domains.
The team excluded (i) individuals with surgical menopause; (ii) current cancer diagnosis and usage of chemotherapy medications; (iii) untreated active thyroid and parathyroid hormonal disorders; (iv) chronic hepatic failure; and (v) chronic kidney failure.
Food items listed by the individuals in their dietary recalls were converted from household measures to grams and milliliters using the Reference Table for Measures of Foods Consumed in Brazil. The food amounts were then converted into kilocalories using the Nutritional Composition Table of Foods Consumed in Brazil, and for participants reporting adding sugar to their beverages, 10% of the beverage volume was considered added sugar.
The NOVA classification was used to classify foods based on the extent of processing into processed and ultra-processed foods and culinary preparations. The follow-up evaluation was conducted from August 2020 to January 2021.
Initially, 288 women were identified, among whom 274 were willing to participate in the study, and 78 (29%) completed all the assessments during COVID-19. Among the study participants, 97% had not received a COVID-19 diagnosis, and 80% were isolated but employed through January 2021. The mean age of the participants was 56 years, and the mean age at menopause was 48 years.
The mean menopause duration was eight years. Among the participants, 146 (53%) were Whites, 145 (53%) were married or lived with their partners, 175 (64%) had their monthly income less than or equal to two minimum wages, and 123 (47%) received education for equivalent to or more than 12 years.
Further, 105 (39%) were overweight, 147 (54%) were physically inactive, 227 (83%) were non-smokers, and 202 (74%) did not consume alcohol.
Symptom intensity was lower during COVID-19 compared to pre-pandemic times. Significant improvements were noted in vasomotor, paresthesia, insomnia, nervousness, melancholy, vertigo, weakness, headaches, palpitations, and tingling symptoms during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic compared to pre-pandemic times.
Protein, lipid (saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and trans-fatty acids), processed food, and calorie intake were lower during COVID-19 than before. In addition, plain yogurt and milk intake were lower, whereas sweet food and sugary beverage consumption were higher during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
The study findings showed that post-menopausal women consumed more sugary drinks and sweet meals. In contrast, plain yogurt, milk, and processed foods were consumed less during COVID-19 than during pre-pandemic periods.
Furthermore, during COVID-19, macronutrients and calorie intakes were lowered. The findings back up research from other nations, including France, Italy, Brazil, and the United States.
The findings can help the healthcare system respond to post-menopausal women's needs during a worldwide public health catastrophe.
To build a sustainable and equitable long-term care system, the healthcare system must realign itself to address the needs of post-menopausal women.