International Women's Day: Trends in women’s health

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

© Mary Long / Getty Images
© Mary Long / Getty Images

Related tags Menopause women's health Sports nutrition stress management personalisation

PMS and menopause support, mental and emotional well-being, supporting active lifestyles, and creating tailored solutions are the key trends emerging in women’s health, according to industry experts.

While the gender science gap remains present in medical literature​, a 2024 trends report​ from Tastewise found that women’s health concerns have topped the online conversation charts in the last 12 months, showing that women’s health is slowly but surely coming to the fore. 

“In general, women’s health is - luckily! - no longer a taboo anymore,” Marit Veenstra, brand and marketing manager at The Healthy Marketing Team (HMT), told NutraIngredients.

“It used to be normal to have problems, and women just had to deal with it as it was ‘part of being a woman’, but this is no longer the case! We can actually do something about it so we feel better.” 

In celebration of International Women’s Day, this article brings together the latest insights in this market.

PMS and period support 

“Menstrual cycle support is a growing area, and one that is seeing a shift away from hormones [replacement therapy] towards more natural solutions that don’t come with nasty side effects,” Veenstra said. 

Jan Deruyck, co-founder of the menstrual cycle support start-up Guud agreed that women are more conscious about what they put in their bodies, and artificial hormones have been under scrutiny. 

He said that women are now waking up to the fact that pain is not normal even though many symptoms have been normalized. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis are becoming a key focus, he added, as better diagnostic support is now available for these conditions.

Research supports the potential of curcumin, vitamin D, inositol and CoQ10 to decrease insulin sensitivity and inflammation, improve the restoration of ovarian function, restore hormonal balance and regulate the menstrual cycle, all of which are the main features and major concerns for women suffering from PCOS.

“The traditional health system is doing all it can to catch up with the research, and so companies that have more dedicated support can complement the healthcare system to provide aftercare or prevent symptoms,” Deruyck added.

Menopause support ​ 

Post-menopausal women consume significantly less protein​ and have poorer muscle quality compared to pre-menopausal women, and peri-menopausal and menopausal women have a higher risk of micronutrient deficiency​ compared to pre-menopausal women.

However, with 48 signs and symptoms of menopause​, opportunities to support this audience are nearly endless. Some brands are already addressing key symptoms such as anxiety, bloating, hormonal equilibrium, skin elasticity, sleep quality, fatigue and joint discomfort, including the start-up MPowder​ with its product Peri-Boost.

And, it's not only brands tapping into this market. European health and wellness retailer Holland & Barrett (H&B) has developed its range across its categories to raise awareness and education.

Alex Glover, nutritional development lead at H&B said ‘building trust is key’ ​for the menopausal demographic, noting that launching initiatives such as its ‘Me.No.Pause.’ campaign showed consumers that they can trust H&B to provide information on how symptoms can be managed without feeling like they’re being sold something. 

Mental and emotional well-bein

Women report poorer sleep quality and have a higher risk for insomnia than men, according to research​, as sleep may be affected by variations in reproductive hormones, stress, depression, aging and life/role transitions.

In fact, sleep problems affect nearly half of EU females between the ages of 35 and 54 years, according to Aurore de Monclin, global communication director at The HMT.

Veenstra added that younger demographics are increasingly concerned about stress, energy, sleep, mood and related mental and emotional wellbeing.

Brands have responded with products to specifically cater to these inter-related range of issues. Female health focused brand Health & Her, for one, offers a Sleep+multi-nutrient supplement formulated formulated with lavender, chamomile, sage and sour cherries to support hormone regulation, nervous system support, blood sugar levels and relaxation.

Active lifestyles 

International active nutrition brand My Protein is making it a top priority to break gender stereotypes in sports nutrition​ as a "significant number of women still do not perceive sports nutrition as essential for their fitness goals", according to Brett Hamer, product director at The Hut Group.

The brand is working to reduce the perception of protein as a male product by using gender-neutral branding and collaborating with prominent female fitness influencers. And there are many other firms working to bring women into this space.

Women’s health is imperative for equality in sports and nutrition​, Mariko Hill, global innovations manager at Gencor, recently told NutraIngredients.  

Iron absorption is a big obstacle in female health due to iron losses during menstruation and even more so in female athletes due to exercise-induced mechanisms associated with endurance activity, she explained.

Gencor’s curcuminoid extract Hydrocurc has been shown to confer functional benefits for female sports enthusiasts and athletes​, and recent research indicates that Hydrocurc supplementation safely improved iron absorption​.  

Joint health is also a concern for 35% of EU females between the ages of 35 and 54 years due to an increased desire to support an active lifestyle, according to data from the strategy and insights firm Industry Transparency Center (ITC).

Tailored solutions ​ 

Nick Morgan, founder of Nutrition Integrated, believes that the future of women’s health is going to be founded on an increase in relevant research and evidence, and that will then allow Femtech to gain more momentum, which is likely to be a ‘huge enabler in the women’s health space for personalization’.

Veenstra agreed that there are plenty of generic products on the market but noted that no two women are the same. 

“Brands should try to understand their target consumer and be able to create tailored solutions to develop a targeted product range rather than a generic, one-size-fits-all women’s health product,” she said.

Now, brands such as Wild.AI. are using AI to personalize health​ and nutrition for women at various stages of menstrual cycle to better inform pain management, nutrition and exercise.

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