Women and Nutrition

Women and Nutrition

Good nutrition in women is based on the adequate, balanced intake and utilization of nutrients. Malnutrition is characterized by insufficient or excessive intake of protein, energy, and/or vitamins and the frequent infections and disorders that result.One of the largest threats to public health on a global basis, malnutrition is also the single-largest contributor to disease in the world.2

 
 

The Global Burden of Malnutrition in Women1
The importance of food and nutrition in human development is widely recognized in both high-income and middle- to low-income countries. Malnutrition in all its forms imposes an intolerable burden not only on national health systems but also on the entire cultural, social, and economic fabric of nations, and is the greatest impediment to the fulfilment of human potential. Investing in nutrition in women therefore makes economic sense because it reduces healthcare costs, improves productivity and economic growth, and promotes education, intellectual capacity, and social development for present and future generations.
 

  • Maternal undernutrition, common in many developing countries, leads to poor fetal development and higher risk of pregnancy complications. Together, maternal and child undernutrition account for more than 10% of the global burden of disease.
     
  • A key indicator of chronic malnutrition is stunting—when children are too short for their age group compared to the WHO child growth standards. According to 2011 figures, about 165 million children globally are stunted as a result of not enough food, a vitamin- and mineral-poor diet, inadequate child care, and disease. As growth slows, brain development lags, and stunted children learn poorly. Stunting rates among children are highest in Africa and Asia. In eastern Africa, 42% were affected as of 2011.
     
  • Wasting is a severe form of malnutrition resulting from acute food shortages and compounded by illness. About 1.5 million children die annually due to wasting. Rising food prices, food scarcity in areas of conflict, and natural disasters diminish household access to appropriate and adequate food, all of which can lead to wasting. Wasting demands emergency nutritional interventions to save lives.
     
  • Essential vitamins and minerals in the diet are vital to boost immunity and healthy development. Vitamin A, zinc, iron, and iodine deficiencies are primary public-health concerns. About 2 billion people are affected by inadequate iodine nutrition worldwide. More than one-third of preschool-age children globally are vitamin A-deficient, a leading cause of preventable blindness.
     
  • Nutritional problems in adolescents start during childhood and continue into adult life. Anemia is a key nutritional issue in adolescent girls. Preventing early pregnancies and assuring adequate intake of essential nutrients in developing girls can reduce subsequent maternal and child deaths and stop the cycle of malnutrition from one generation to the next. Globally, anemia affects 42% of pregnant women.
     
  • The rise in overweight and obesity worldwide is a major public-health challenge. People of all ages and backgrounds face this form of malnutrition. As a consequence, rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other diet-related conditions are escalating worldwide.
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Nutrition & Healthy Living

Nutrition in women affects their overall health from adolescence through the reproductive years and middle age to the elder years. At each milestone, women experience physical changes requiring nutritional interventions that lay a foundation for a continuum of healthy life.

 


Hormonal changes that occur during menstruation alter the metabolism to burn more energy. The blood loss that occurs during menstruation may cause iron levels to decrease, resulting in mild anemia. This can be circumvented by including red meat, legumes, nuts, eggs, fortified cereals, and dark leafy vegetables in the diet.



A woman's blood volume increases dramatically to help nourish the baby and keep her own body healthy. It is critically important to add iron-rich foods and iron supplements to facilitate an increase in the production of red blood cells.

Because iron supplements may interfere with the absorption of zinc, zinc supplements are also commonly recommended. Leavened whole-grain products, liver, eggs, red meat, and seafood are all good sources of zinc.

Much of the calcium needed for a developing baby can be drawn from the mother's body, but pregnant women should be sure to replace calcium through supplements to ensure that they do not experience bone loss. A diet balanced with milk, yogurt, and cheese can help keep mother and baby healthier throughout the pregnancy and early months.

Folic acid plays a crucial role in the proper development of a baby's nervous system. Folic acid supplements are normally recommended even before pregnancy occurs to ensure that there is plenty available during early embryonic development. In addition to supplements, folic acid can be found in red meat, liver, egg yolks, and green leafy vegetables.

Breast milk is extraordinarily concentrated with nutrients, and since all the nutrients come from the mother, she must restore them regularly to avoid developing deficiencies. It is particularly important to continue to supplement calcium, iron, folic acid, and all the vitamins recommended during pregnancy. Magnesium and vitamin B6 are crucial during breastfeeding. It is also important to include protein in the diet and remain very well hydrated.



One of the major concerns for women during menopause is the development of osteoporosis. The loss of estrogen can lead to a significant loss of bone mass, leaving the bones brittle. Measures for maintaining healthy bones should begin earlier in life with intake of calcium through dairy products. Vitamin D can increase absorption of calcium, so its inclusion in the diet can also help decrease the risk of developing a calcium deficiency. Diets that are low in salt, alcohol, and caffeine can also help improve calcium retention. Maintaining a healthy body composition and exercising regularly can also help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis after menopause.

It is essential to promote positive nutrition practices by encouraging a varied and balanced diet among women throughout all life stages to ensure their health and well-being, as well as that of their offspring.

Risk Factors

Micronutrient deficiencies are risk factors4 for many diseases and can contribute to high rates of morbidity and mortality. Even moderate levels of deficiency can have detrimental effects on human health. Micronutrient deficiency is widespread in industrialized nations, but even more so in the developing regions of the world. Around the world, 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiency, also known as "hidden hunger."

Young children and women of reproductive age are among those most at risk for developing micronutrient deficiencies. The three most common forms of micronutrient malnutrition are iron, vitamin A, and iodine deficiency.

 

Symptoms

Poor nutrition can put women at nutritional risk and result in malnutrition and poor health. Eye, hair, nail, mouth, and skin symptoms are among the early outward warning signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

 

• Low energy                           • Obesity

• Fragile bones                        • Extreme weight loss
  

 

Related Diseases and Conditions
 

The major causes of death, illness, and disability in which diet and nutrition in women play an important role include coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, atherosclerosis, obesity, some forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, dental caries (tooth decay), gall bladder disease, dementia, and nutritional anemia.

Solutions

Throughout a woman’s lifetime, there are a number of conditions and diseases that affect her differently, or to a greater extent, than men. Many of these conditions and diseases are interconnected, where the onset of one leads to a greater risk of developing another. With an enhanced understanding and focus on the unique healthcare needs of women, healthcare providers across the continuum of care can be better equipped to prevent, detect, and treat the most threatening diseases affecting their female patients throughout all stages of their lives.


 

Other Siemens Systems

Albumin

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

B12

X

 

 

X*

X

X

 

Calcium

 

X

X

X

X

 

 

Ferritin

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Folate

X

 

 

X*

X

X

 

Iron

 

X

X

X

X

 

 

Prealbumin

 

X

X

X

X

 

X

RBC Folate

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retinol-binding Protein

 

 

 

 

X

X

X

S Transferrin

 

 

 

 

X

 

X

Total Iron-binding Capacity

 

X

X

X

X

 

 

Transferrin

 

X

X

X

X

 

X

Vitamin D

X

 

 

X*

 

 

 

1

2

3

4