- Research indicates a correlation between dietary choices and menopause onset, with diets high in refined carbohydrates linked to an earlier onset and a diet rich in fish and legumes to a later onset.
- The connection might be related to how specific food groups impact hormones, such as refined carbohydrates contributing to insulin resistance and heightened estrogen levels possibly causing an earlier menopause.
- The study doesn’t categorically establish cause-effect relationships between nutrition and menopause. Previous research has linked both a higher and lower risk of different diseases with earlier menopause.
- Eating habits should not be modified based on this study with the intent to influence menopause timing, as the findings are complex and not fully understood.
- Though diet is just one factor, many health professionals acknowledge the importance of dietary shifts towards plant-based options for overall health. However, the study found that vegetarian women experienced menopause approximately a year earlier than meat-eaters.
Research suggests that dietary choices can influence the onset of a woman’s menopause. Findings from a comprehensive tracking study conducted on over 35,000 British women over four years have unveiled a correlation between the menopause timeline and certain food groups.
Dietary Style and its Ties with Menopause
The research showcased that an earlier onset of menopause was common in women who included a significant amount of refined carbohydrates in their diet. In contrast, women whose diets were rich in fish and legumes, experienced a later onset of menopause.
Fish and Legumes vs. Refined Carbohydrates
“The consumption of oily fish seemed to delay the onset of natural menopause by approximately three years, and fresh legumes—like peas and green beans—delayed menopause onset by roughly one year,”, shared Yashvee Dunneram, the study author. She further added that high consumption of refined carbohydrates like pasta and rice accelerated the menopause onset by about 1.5 years. Dunneram is an associated researcher with the nutritional epidemiology group at the University of Leeds, in England.
Why Does Diet Matter?
The exact explanation behind this fascinating link is yet to be unearthed. However, it’s believed that it could be related to how specific foods impact hormones. Dunneram explained, “Refined carbs contribute majorly towards insulin resistance. Heightened levels of circulating insulin could meddle with sex hormone activity, elevating estrogen levels. This could proliferate the number of menstrual cycles and accelerate egg supply depletion, thereby instigating an earlier menopause.”
The Direction of Cause and Effect
Despite these revealing findings, the researchers clarified that the study does not conclusively establish a cause-effect relationship. They emphasized that previous studies have associated both a higher and lower risk of various diseases with an earlier menopause.
A Word of Caution
Due to the complexity of these findings, Dunneram emphasized that women should not modify their dietary patterns based on this study with the aim of influencing their menopause onset.
Research participants were English, Scottish, and Welsh women aged 40 to 65. Their nutritional patterns in relation to 217 specific foods were evaluated. There was no directive for the participants to alter their eating habits. Out of the 14,000 women monitored for four years post-survey, a little over 900 experienced natural menopause.
The observations revealed a link between menopause onset and daily intake portion size of refined carbs, legumes, fish, and levels of vitamin B6 and zinc. However, a puzzling discovery was that vegetarian women experienced menopause approximately a year earlier than meat-eaters, which could possibly be attributed to the high-fiber, low-animal fat content of their meals.
These findings present a foundation for further exploration into the nuances of the diet-menopause relationship. Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, reminded us that, “the age of menopause is also genetically driven, so diet is just one factor.”
However, many health professionals acknowledged the importance of shifting dietary choices to plant-based options for overall health. Lona Sandon, program director of the Department of Clinical Nutrition at UT Southwestern, at Dallas, suggests women to consider including more fish and legumes in their diets due to their health benefits.
The study’s findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
Find more about menopause on the U.S. National Institute on Aging website here.