Journal / Menopause

The Menopause Brain.

21 Mar, 2024

Brain health and the potential link between dementia and the menopause transition is explored in detail in Lisa Mosconi’s latest book, The Menopause Brain, which, by the time this newsletter reaches you will be available in the UK for purchase.

21 Mar, 2024

Prior to its launch, the associated research papers have prompted much debate in the media. And a fair bit of scare-mongering too. This week’s journal is a reflection on her conversation with the brilliant Rich Roll on his podcast last week.

I urge you all to listen to it - and to also read her book because - firstly, knowledge is power! - but, as importantly in the current climate, going to the source is key. This is a balanced, optimistic, empowering book about the brilliance of our biology. And, although there are definitely considerations if you have been diagnosed as having a predisposition to Alzheimer's disease, this is far from a ‘menopause causes dementia’ thesis or ‘we all need to be on HRT or accept dementia as an inevitability’ message, that has caused so much distress. On the contrary, this is a book that looks to give us all greater agency for our long-term healthspan, with the assertion that, if we pay attention to our bodies, we can transition through menopause with a renewed and enhanced brain.


These are 3 core key takeaways for me:


The benefits of menopause on our brains; Mosconi is keen to highlight the biological benefit of menopause on the brain, something she feels is often overlooked in the current conversation around females in midlife. As a neuroscientist, she views the impact of menopause on the brain as a ‘remodelling’ - and, interestingly, as something our bodies benefit from too. Like other key hormonal transitions - from puberty, when connectivity changes allow our brains to better manage impulse control and empathy, to pregnancy, when our brains model to protect and also interpret our child’s needs, menopause results in a rewiring that seems to lead to greater contentment in life. I’ve written before about supporting research for this before but Mosconi digs into the neuroscience behind it. Brain imaging allows us to see a ‘turning down’ of our reactivity to negative experiences, allowing us to physiologically ‘mellow’.


The societal benefit of the Grandmother Effect: The Grandmother hypothesis asserts the ethnographical view that females evolved to live beyond their fertile lives to benefit their community. Mosconi views the ageing woman, post menopause as ‘evolutionary heroines’ - allowing mothers to focus on passing on their genes by providing a care-giving role to the community, as well as sharing all the wisdom they’ve acquired. This perspective is a well overdue rebalancing of how menopause is being framed in some discussions currently; taking it from an accident that is the result of increased lifespan that we need to ‘fix’ to an ‘unnatural deficiency’ or a ‘disease’.


The steps we can take to nourish our brains in menopause: Some of us will be at a higher risk of developing dementia - based on when and how we entered menopause and our family history. But it’s important to note that between 20-50% of our risk is now thought to be down to lifestyle. So what are the interventions we should all be making to age well?

  • ‘Food is chemistry’: as a neuroscientist, Dr. Mosconi looks at what we put on our plate as chemical components! And, the best brain food? A Mediterranean diet with what Rich Roll goes on to describe as a ’turbo green’ slant, where plants are prioritised even further for their antioxidant qualities. Beta-carotene gets a superhero shout out! - these plants are easy to spot thanks to their sunny hue! Think carrots, papaya, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, butternut squash. But she flags the nutritional value of leafy greens, goji berries, moringa (a favourite in our formulations!), prunes - as well as nuts and seeds.

  • Exercise: here, the type of exercise may matter, but more research is needed. Dr Mosconi recommends ‘moderate’ intensity as the workout protocol of choice in midlife as opposed to high intensity. This may benefit us because it causes less impact to cortisol levels which can increase when our bodies are under extreme stress. But, the best exercise of all? Is always the exercise you’ll actually do.

  • Sleep: we know that sleeplessness can have an impact on our near-term wellness and our long-term health. Mosconi advocates for a prioritisation of sleep in midlife. We need to watch the stimulants in our diets. And watch our stress levels. And, if you want more expert advice, why not check out our time limited Sleep Bundle - currently on offer with Mood Food!


Finally, the role of HRT:

I’m writing this prior to the UK publication of the book so want to be careful in what I share here until I’ve read the book. But, based on her 2.5 hour interview with Rich Roll, Mosconi’s perspective is based on her own meta-analysis of research to date, where, when considering HRT for Alzheimer risk purposes, the data shows we should introduce hormones in perimenopause rather than post-menopause for significant benefit. The exciting news is that she is focused on undertaking clinical (rather than observational) trials that will allow a much more in depth view - along with trialling an exciting new HRT formulation too.

To order The Menopause Brain click HERE.

Share Twitter Facebook Pinterest