Vitality

These Foods May Be Linked To Early Or Delayed Menopause Onset

Researchers from the University of Leeds have led the first-ever U.K. study examining the relationship between diet and the onset of menopause. Their findings highlighted certain food groups that may be linked to an early or delayed start of menopause.

The paper titled "Dietary intake and age at natural menopause: results from the UK Women’s Cohort Study" was published in the BMJ Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health on April 30.

How was this study conducted?

Researchers examined data on 14,172 women between the ages of 40 to 65 from the U.K. Women's Cohort Study. Information about their diet, reproductive history and health were collected through a detailed questionnaire and survey.

In a follow-up conducted four years later, researchers assessed the dietary patterns of the women who had started natural menopause since the initial collection of information.

Does it matter how old a woman is when she begins menopause?

"The age at which menopause begins can have serious health implications for some women," stated Professor Janet Cade, a co-author of the study who leads the Nutritional Epidemiology Group at the university. "A clear understanding of how diet affects the start of natural menopause will be very beneficial to those who may already be at risk or have a family history of certain complications related to menopause."

Research has linked earlier onset of menopause with lower bone density, osteoporosis and a higher risk of heart disease. Delayed menopause has been associated with a higher risk of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers.

What were the food groups that seemed to be influencers?

The analysis linked a high consumption of oily fish and fresh legumes with a delayed start of menopause by nearly three years. In terms of nutrients, vitamin B6 and zinc were also associated with a later age of natural menopause.

Women whose diets included a high intake of refined pasta and rice were more likely to start menopause one and a half years earlier than average. Consumption of savory snacks and a higher intake of carbohydrates were associated with an earlier age at natural menopause.

Does this mean diet can be used to predict the onset of menopause?

The study was observational in nature and is one of the few ones to study food as a possible factor. So it may be too early to determine the extent of influence a woman's diet can have in deciding the age at which menopause begins.

Saffron Whitehead, a professor of endocrinology at St. George's University in London, stated that the results were "insignificant" for now despite showing some trends. According to him, menopause is dependent on too many other factors such as the number of eggs at birth, estrogen production, insulin resistance, and amount of body fat. 

The authors of the study expressed interest in taking up further research in order to explore the association and understand the impact it can have on health and well-being.

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