Eating oily fish and legumes could delay the menopause while eating more rice and pasta could bring it on faster, suggests a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
The study was conducted by Yashvee Dunneram, a professor at School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK, and colleagues, to determine if dietary intake has any influence on age of menopause onset in women.
Natural menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of menstrual periods for at least 12 consecutive months. This research is significant as early and delayed onset of menopause have associated health implications. While its early onset is associated with long-term health risks including neurologic disease, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. On the other hand, late-onset has some health benefits including delay in osteoporosis along with increased risks for breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer.
Several genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors are thought to be involved in the timing of the menopause, and some studies have implicated diet. To explore this further, the researchers drew on participants from the UK Women’s Cohort Study, involving more than 35,000 women between the ages of 35 and 69 from England, Scotland, and Wales. They also estimated the quantities of 217 foodstuffs they ate every day by completing a food frequency questionnaire. The food items were collated into groups according to their culinary uses.
The women provided information on potentially influential factors such as weight history, physical activity levels, reproductive history, and use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Further information on when the women had gone through the menopause naturally was gathered 4 years later. Some 14,000 women provided information at both time points, and the final analysis included the 914 who had gone through the menopause naturally after the age of 40 and before the age of 65.
The average age at menopause was 51, and certain foods seemed to be associated with its timing.
During the 4-year follow-up period, 914 women experienced a natural menopause. A high intake of oily fish and fresh legumes were associated with delayed onset of natural menopause by 3.3 years per portion/day and 0.9 years per portion/day, respectively. Refined pasta and rice was associated with earlier menopause. A higher intake of vitamin B6 and zinc was also associated with later age at menopause.
Similar results emerged when the analysis looked at particular groups. For example, eating meat was associated with menopause arriving almost a year later than a vegetarian diet.
Egg maturation and release are adversely affected by reactive oxygen species, so a high intake of legumes, which contain antioxidants, may counter this, preserving menstruation for longer, suggest the researchers, in a bid to explain the findings. And omega 3 fatty acids, which are abundant in oily fish, stimulate antioxidant capacity in the body.
On the other hand, refined carbs boost the risk of insulin resistance, which can interfere with sex hormone activity and boost estrogen levels, both of which might increase the number of menstrual cycles and deplete egg supply faster.
Vegetarians consume a lot of antioxidants too, but they are also likely to eat a lot more fiber and less animal fat than carnivores, both of which are associated with low estrogen levels, which may also alter the timing of the menopause, suggest the researchers.
This is an observational study, and as such, can’t prove causality. Food Frequency Questionnaires are subject to faulty recall, and the study sample was also more affluent and health conscious than average, all of which might have influenced the findings.
Based on the study, the researchers concluded that diet may be associated with the age at natural menopause. This may be relevant at a public health level since age at natural menopause may have implications on future health outcomes.
For further information click on the link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jech-2017-209887
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