Women’s health and nutritional requirements are unique due to a range of factors that affect them alone, such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. These life stages bring distinct physiological changes, necessitating specific nutrients like iron for menstrual health, folate during pregnancy, and calcium for bone health, highlighting the importance of tailored nutritional support for optimal well-being across different phases of a woman's life. This week’s nutrition news highlights a number of recently published studies that shine a light on nutritional support for women’s health across heart health, pregnancy, and skin health. Find out more here.

Poor sleep can affect women’s heart health

Establishing healthy sleep patterns during midlife can significantly impact future heart health, according to a recent study reported in the article “Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Increase Women's Risk of Heart Disease by 75%”. The research reveals that consistently sleeping fewer than seven hours a night, along with disturbances such as waking up too early or throughout the night, can elevate the risk of stroke, heart attack, and myocardial infarction in the future.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) stands as the primary cause of death in women, making sleep quality a critical health concern, particularly during midlife. While previous studies have explored the relationship between poor sleep and heart disease development, this study delves into the long-term impact of sleep problems on heart disease risk.

The research involved a comprehensive analysis of 2,964 women aged 42 to 52 over 22 years. Participants completed regular questionnaires about their sleep habits, mental health, vasomotor symptoms, and other relevant factors. The findings indicated a close connection between chronic insomnia symptoms and an increased risk of developing CVD. Additionally, women who consistently slept less than five hours a night showed a slightly higher risk of heart disease.

Participants experiencing persistent high insomnia symptoms and short sleep duration had a 75% higher risk of heart disease, even after adjusting for traditional CVD risk factors. The study emphasises the significant link between sleep support and women's heart health.

Multiple mechanisms contribute to the negative effects of poor sleep on heart health, including increased sympathetic nervous system activity, dysregulated autonomic nervous system activity, and heightened systemic inflammation. Poor sleep quality is linked to hypertension and insulin resistance, both recognised risk factors for heart disease.

To improve sleep quality and mitigate associated risks, experts recommend maintaining a cool, dark, and quiet bedroom, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, following a balanced diet, adhering to a consistent sleep-wake schedule, regular exercise, and minimising stimulant intake in the afternoon.

As heart disease remains a leading cause of death in women, the study underscores the importance of addressing sleep problems as part of comprehensive cardiovascular health management.

Study shows that chlorella could improve constipation in pregnancy

Pregnancy induces substantial shifts in hormones, metabolism, and the immune system, with constipation affecting 11% to 38% of expectant mothers due to various factors. A correlation between low-grade inflammation during pregnancy and adverse health outcomes for both mothers and foetuses underscores the importance of maternal well-being.

Chlorella, a nutrient-rich green alga, emerges as a potential option for pregnant women. Packed with protein, chlorophyll, vitamins (including vitamin B12, various folate forms, and vitamin D), minerals (iron and magnesium), and dietary fibre, chlorella offers a comprehensive nutritional support. Notably, polysaccharides from chlorella pyrenoidosa positively influence the gut microbiota, promoting beneficial bacteria and reducing harmful bacteria, supporting overall digestive and gut health.

In a study, reported in the article “Chlorella supplementation may relieve constipation for pregnant women”  focusing on pregnant women with low-grade inflammation, Chlorella supplementation demonstrated a significant decrease in constipation prevalence. While the precise mechanism remains unclear, the positive outcomes suggest potential benefits for antenatal health. Recognising limitations, such as sample size and group planning, the researchers emphasise the need for further investigation.

The researchers propose future endeavours, including an in-depth analysis of microbiota changes in chlorella and control groups. To enhance the understanding of Chlorella's impact during pregnancy, a forthcoming double-blind randomised control study with a larger patient population is planned.

Vitamins that support skin health against Eczema

Living with eczema, a challenging skin condition characterised by dryness, inflammation, and itching, often involves a journey of trial and error in finding effective treatments. While conventional approaches include creams, steroids, and light therapy, there's growing interest in other options, such as vitamins and supplements, which may offer nutritional support for skin health.

The article “Which Supplements Are Good for Eczema?” looks at some of the studies that highlight dietary options that may support skin health. Probiotics, known for their potential to impact the gut microbiome, show promise in managing eczema symptoms. Specific strains including Lactiplantibacillus plantarum, Ligilactobacillus salivarius and Lactobacillus acidophilus demonstrate evidence of efficacy. Vitamin B12, essential for various bodily functions, may influence eczema severity, with a case study reporting improvement after supplementation. Vitamin C, with its antioxidant properties, is linked to potential symptom reduction, but more research is needed for conclusive recommendations.

Vitamin D exhibits promising results in some studies, particularly in children with eczema, which is of particular note as so many Britons are deficient in this essential vitamin. Vitamin E, recognised for its immune system support, has shown improvement in eczema symptoms in certain studies. Melatonin, primarily known for aiding sleep, may also contribute to skin support against eczema by acting as an antioxidant.

Fish oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing itchiness and improving the quality of life for eczema patients in some studies. Evening primrose oil, containing GLA, has shown mixed results, necessitating further research. Borage oil, although rich in GLA, lacks substantial evidence for significant clinical effects.

While vitamin deficiencies such as vitamin C and D have been linked to skin complications, including eczema, it's crucial to consult a dermatologist before incorporating supplements into your diet.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.