Menopause: foods that might accelerate or delay it.
Many factors are thought to be involved in the timing of the menopause – genetic, behavioural, environmental – but there is no doubt that the age at which menopause happens can have an important impact on future health. A recent study looked at diet and suggested that what we eat influences timing, with high intakes of oily fish, fresh legumes as well as vitamin B6 and zinc associated with a later onset of natural menopause while a high consumption of refined pasta and rice was associated with an earlier age at natural menopause.
The health implications can be significant. Earlier onset of menopause can contribute to a loss of bone density and a higher risk of heart disease. Later onset, might have some health benefits, with a recent study suggesting it might keep cognitive decline at bay in senior women, however there can be problems too, with an increased risk of breast, womb, and ovarian cancers.
On average, the age at which the women got their menopause was 51, and the study found that certain food items were linked with the timing of this onset. Specifically, each portion of carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice, consumed per day correlated with experiencing menopause 1.5 years earlier. By contrast, for each daily portion of fish and fresh legumes, such as peas and beans, the delay in menopause onset was of over 3 years. Additionally, a higher daily consumption of vitamin B-6 and zinc was also associated with later menopause. When comparing vegetarians with meat eaters, the researchers found that eating meat was linked with a 1-year delay in menopause onset. Among women who had not had any children, a higher intake of grapes and poultry was linked with later menopause.
It’s important to note that this observational study can’t prove causality. Other factors might be the accuracy of the questionnaires (they can be subject to faulty recall) while the study sample was also more affluent and health conscious than average, all of which might have influenced the findings. However, it’s an influential study, as it’s the first to confirm that diet may be associated with the age at natural menopause. It’s certainly a good reason for women to become more mindful and track what you eat.
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