A study from the University of Leeds in the U.K. suggests that diets plentiful in certain foods may be a factor in the timing of menopause.
Researchers who studied more than 14,000 women found that those whose diets included lots of fish and legumes (e.g., lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans) entered menopause years later, on average, than women who didn’t eat much of these foods.
Conversely, eating more refined carbohydrates, including white pasta and rice, was tied to earlier menopause.
“Evidence shows that while an earlier menopause increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and depression; it also protects against breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer which makes it interesting to investigate whether diet, which is one of the modifiable behavioral factors, is linked to the onset of natural menopause”, said the lead author.
More vegetables, fish delayed menopause onset
At the beginning of a long-term study, researchers examined health and diet information for 14,712 women ages 35 to 69, including 1,874 who were premenopausal and 914 who entered menopause during the next four years.
The average age at menopause, defined as going 12 months without a period, was 50.5 years, and half of women were 51 or older at natural menopause.
After accounting for weight, smoking and other factors, each additional average daily serving of legumes was tied to nearly a year’s delay in onset of menopause, while each additional serving of oily fish was tied to a three-year delay.
More vitamin B6 and zinc in the diet were also tied to slightly later onset of menopause, while each additional average daily serving of white rice or pasta was linked to onset 1.5 years earlier.
How diet may impact menopause timing
The study wasn’t a controlled experiment and can’t prove whether or how eating particular foods might have influenced menopause timing.
Even so, the researchers speculate that antioxidants in certain foods could offset aging of ovaries, and different diets’ effect on body fat and insulin levels could also affect estrogen levels.
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