Healthy Diet Critical in Helping Menopausal Women Avoid Diabetes

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • If there is ever a time to become vigilant about eating a healthy diet, it’s when you’re going through the menopausal transition. That’s because what you eat is linked to not only pesky issues such as hot flashes, but long-term life-threatening conditions such as diabetes.


    In an article for, the North American Menopause Society warns that women over the age of 50 are especially vulnerable to diabetes. However, researchers are not sure whether menopause is to blame for this increased risk. In fact, a 2012 study that analyzed previous research found that an increased risk of diabetes appears to be caused primarily by chronological aging and sex hormones instead of by the menopausal transition.

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    Primary risk factors for diabetes include age and being overweight, although other factors can come into play. These other factors include a family history of the condition, being prediabetic, being a member of a minority or ethnic group, having high blood pressure, having cardiovascular disease or abnormal cholesterol levels, or being inactive. Additionally, women who developed high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy or have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome are at an even higher risk.


    So how important is a healthy diet? Research is indicating that it’s very important. A new study out of Harvard University crunched data from 156,030 non-Hispanic white women, 2,026 Asian women, 2,063 Hispanic women and 2,307 black women who were participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study II. These longitudinal studies lasted for 28 years and participants were asked to complete diet questionnaires every four years.


    The researchers’ analysis identified a protective association between a healthy overall diet and the risk of diabetes in all racial and ethnic groups. A healthy diet was associated with a 48-percent lower risk of diabetes in white women, a 42-percent lower risk in Asian women, a 55-percent lower risk in Hispanic women and a 32-percent lower risk in black women. Additionally, a healthy diet resulted in a 36-percent lower risk of diabetes among minority women than the least healthy diet eaten by this group. Furthermore, researchers found that because minority women have a higher risk of diabetes than white women, adhering to a healthier diet has a greater benefit for these women. The researchers calculated that eating a healthier diet can help prevent 8.0 cases per 1,000 minority women annually as compared to 5.3 cases of diabetes per 1,000 white women annually.


    The researchers also developed a dietary diabetes risk reduction scores that took into account components associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. This scale provided a higher score for a healthier diet that included lower consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats. A healthier diet also includes low glycemic index foods as well as higher intakes of cereal fiber, polyunsaturated fats, coffee and nuts.


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    The study also determined that an increased risk of diabetes in minority and white women was associated with higher glycemic index foods, each serving of sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as red and processed meats. A reduced risk of diabetes in both white and minority women was associated with a higher intake of cereal fiber as well as each cup of coffee consumed daily.


    Besides eating a healthy diet, the North American Menopause Society recommends that you get tested for diabetes and be physically active. The organization, however, warns against taking hormone replacement therapy just to reduce your risk of developing diabetes.


    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    Harvard School of Public Health. (2015). Healthy diet associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes in minority women.


    Kim, C. (2012). Does menopause increase diabetes risk? Strategies for diabetes prevention in midlife women.


    North American Menopause Society. (ND). Diabetes hits women hard at menopause. Beat it back.

Published On: January 26, 2015