Eating oily fish and fresh legumes delays the onset of natural menopause by around 3 years, shows a new published analysis of data from the UK Women’s Cohort Study (UKWCS).
Higher intake of vitamin B6 and zinc were also associated with modestly delayed menopause.
But consuming refined pasta and rice was linked to an earlier natural menopause by 1.5 years, and likewise, vegetarian women had an earlier natural menopause than nonvegetarians.
The research, the first of its kind in UK women, was led by Yashvee Dunneram, MSc, from the University of Leeds, UK, and published online April 30 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
“Our findings confirm that diet may be associated with the age at natural menopause,” write Dunneram and colleagues, adding that the results have public health relevance because “age at natural menopause may have implications on future health outcomes.”
“Health practitioners might thus also need to take into account the diet of women when dealing with menopause-related issues.”
“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,” study author Janet Cade, PhD, Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology and Public Health, also at the University of Leeds, added in a press release.
First Study on Relationship of Diet to Menopausal Age in UK Women
The average age of menopause in UK women is around 51 years. Early menopause has been linked to osteoporosis, depression, and cardiovascular and coronary disease, and those women who go through menopause later are at greater risk of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer, the authors note.
They point out that a number of causes for the relationship between age and start of menopause have been previously considered, such as genetic, behavioral, and environmental.
“But there are fewer studies that look at the impact of diet,” Dunneram said in the statement.
“This study is the first to investigate the links between individual nutrients and a wide variety of food groups and age at natural menopause in a large cohort of British women.”
Over 35,000 women participated in the prospective UKWCS study, and of these, 914 women aged 40 to 65 years who experienced a natural menopause over a 4-year follow-up were included in the current analysis.
Data collected at baseline and 4 years included demographics, weight history, physical activity, reproductive history (age at last period, number of periods in previous 12 months, use of hormone replacement therapy), anthropometric, and other health-related factors.