Diet May Affect When You Reach Menopause

For most women, menopause occurs naturally in their forties or fifties, but according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the exact timing of this transition may be affected by the foods you eat regularly. The study analyzed data from 914 women aged 40 to 65 who participated in the UK Women’s Cohort Study. At baseline, the women had answered food-frequency questionnaires on how often they ate certain foods, including fish, legumes, pasta, and rice. Researchers also recorded the timing of the women’s menstrual cycles throughout the study. Then, they analyzed data from women who had experienced the onset of natural menopause—defined as no menstrual cycles for at least 12 consecutive months—during the first four years of the study. After comparing the women’s ages at the onset of menopause to their diets and adjusting for factors such as exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption, researchers estimated that:

  • Each additional daily portion of oily fish and fresh legumes increased the age at menopause by 3.3 years and 0.9 years, respectively.
  • Each additional milligram in daily intake of vitamin B6 and zinc increased the age at menopause by 0.6 years and 0.3 years, respectively.
  • On the other hand, each additional daily portion of refined pasta or rice decreased the age at menopause by 1.5 years.

Based on their findings, the authors posited that the antioxidant effects of vitamin B6, zinc, and compounds in legumes, and antioxidant support from fish oils, may have played a role in delaying menopause. While more clinical research is needed to understand this relationship, these findings could have important implications for women’s health: early menopause has been associated with lower bone density, osteoporosis, depression, and premature death, while late menopause has been associated with higher risks of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.

Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

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