This week we will be discussing calcium, and why it is an important nutrient during the menopause years. The connection between calcium and menopause is particularly important due to bone health.
Calcium is a mineral with several important functions including helping to keep bones and teeth healthy; regulating muscle contractions; and ensuring that blood clots normally.
Some good sources of calcium and their recommended portion sizes include:
- milk (100ml)
- broccoli (85g)
- calcium set tofu (100g)
- cheese (30g or matchbox-size)
- plain yoghurt (120g)
- kale (100g)
- wholemeal bread (100g)
- calcium-fortified plant-based milk alternative (100ml)
- sardines (60g)
The daily recommendations for calcium are 700mg, for adults ages 19 to 64 years old . You should aim to eat 2-3 good sources of calcium every day.
Calcium for Menopause
An adequate calcium intake has numerous benefits for menopausal women.
Firstly, calcium is a nutrient of particular concern when discussing bone health. Around 99% of the body’s calcium is found in bones and it plays a big role in the structure of bones. As we age, our bone density decreases, leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis, where bones become weaker and are more likely to break .
Women going through menopause are at an even greater risk of osteoporosis, with research suggesting that up to 20% of bone loss can occur during menopause. Further research has shown that one in two postmenopausal women will experience osteoporosis, with fractures also occurring at this time.
The reason for the decline in bone health in menopausal women is due to the drop in oestrogen, which is closely related to osteoporosis. When oestrogen levels decrease bone resorption occurs at a greater rate than bone formation, resulting in the development of osteoporosis .
Do I need more calcium for menopause?
The recommendation for calcium does not change due to menopause. However, if you develop osteoporosis, the recommended daily intake increases to 1000mg per day.
Calcium supplementation in the diets of post-menopausal women had been shown to slow the rate of bone mineral density lost over a 1-2 year period, reinforcing the importance of an adequate calcium intake .
Further health benefits of calcium
Another benefit of calcium is that it may help to reduce stress. This may be useful for menopausal women who are experience mood swings, or trouble getting to sleep .
You may have heard people recommending a mug of warm milk before bed, a great source of calcium. This is because calcium has been found to be effective in reducing stress, meaning that you can be more relaxed before going to sleep .
Finally, although the main focus of research around calcium discusses bone health, calcium has also been associated with beneficial effects on other body systems. Beneficial effects have been associated with hypertension, colorectal cancer, obesity, and kidney stones in menopausal women, suggesting that an adequate intake of calcium offers benefits for other systems in the body, as well as the skeletal system .
Top Tips for Calcium for Menopause
- Eat 2-3 good calcium sources per day.
- Ensure you are getting an adequate amount of vitamin D to increase calcium absorption.
- If you don’t eat dairy, try fortified plant milks or tofu.
- Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables.
- Add spinach to curries, soups, and smoothies for extra calcium.
In summary, calcium has numerous benefits for menopausal women. Bone health, sleep, and other systems in the body can benefit from an adequate intake of calcium. It is important to ensure an adequate calcium intake to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.