Menopausal women are told to ditch simple carbs due to blood sugar concerns

Menopausal women are told to ditch simple carbs as study finds foods like pasta and bread spike their blood sugar more sharply leaving them prone to weight gain and diabetes

  • Study found post-menopausal women were more impacted by simple carbs
  • They had bigger increases to blood sugar, putting them at more risk of diabetes
  • One author said it showed how the change was a ‘major metabolic upheaval’
  • They urged women to ditch simple carbs post-menopause to combat the effect

Ditching simple carbs could help post-menopausal women stave off weight gain and reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetes, a study suggests.

A study of over 1,000 women found those who were post-menopausal experienced a bigger spike in blood sugar after eating carbohydrate-rich food like pasta and bread than pre-menopausal women of the same age.

Over time, high blood sugar can damage organs and lead to serious health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

Post-menopausal also had more weight around their stomachs, higher levels of inflammation, cholesterol, and higher blood pressure.

The results have prompted nutritionists involved in the study, published as a pre-print in the journal The Lancet, to urge women to make simple swaps in their diet to reduce their risk.

These include ditching simple carbs like white bread, rice and pasta for complex carbs like rye loaf, or by eating them with a fat or protein source, like olive oil or peanut butter, which slow the spike to blood sugar.

Nutritionists have said post-menopausal women should consider making simple food swaps to combat the ‘major metabolic upheaval’ their bodies have gone through, one of these being to ditch simple carbs like bread, pasta and rice

The study also found post-menopausal women consumed more sugar and reported poorer sleep compared with pre-menopausal women.

This thereby increased their risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease even further, the experts said.

The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. It normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.

In most cases it is triggered by a change in the production of the body’s sex hormones which occurs as women age.


Menopause is defined as the changes a woman goes through just before and after she stops her periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.

Some women go through this time with few, if any, symptoms, around 60 percent experience symptoms resulting in behavioral changes and one in four will suffer severely.

Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness leading to discomfort during sex, disrupted sleep, decreased sex drive, problems with memory and concentration, and mood swings.

Menopause happens when your ovaries stop producing as much of the hormone estrogen and no longer release an egg each month.

In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51, according to the NHS.

These hormonal changes can come with a raft of symptoms such as the infamous hot flushes, and weight gain.

The study was conducted by nutrition company ZOE in collaboration with King’s College London, Harvard, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

It saw researchers examine health data from 1,002 women of the same age who were either pre-menopause, going through the menopause or post-menopausal.

Senior author of the study Dr Sarah Berry, an expert in nutritional science from the health data company ZOE, said their research showed the menopause was a time of ‘major metabolic upheaval’ with many ‘unfavorable changes’.

‘Even in an aged-matched group, if you are post-menopausal, you have an unfavorable increase in blood sugar after consuming a carbohydrate-rich meal. It’s an effect due to menopause,’ she said..

‘Therefore, women may wish to be more mindful about the type of carbohydrates they are consuming.

‘This could mean moving away from highly-refined carbohydrates and processed foods that contain them – so thinking carefully about bakery, some confectionery goods, and some staples such as bread, pasta and rice.’

She added that if women did want to consume these carbs they should could make some simple changes to reduce the impact on their blood sugar levels.

‘If you consume them with a fat like olive oil, or a protein, that will help reduce the glycemic response,’ she said.

‘One change might be choosing rye bread, for example, rather than white or wholemeal.’

Dr Berry concluded that although the study did show some of the negative effects of the menopause it did provide some potential ways to combat them.

‘What this study shows is that we’re not a prisoner of the menopause – we can do something about it,’ she said.


Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fiber a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide



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