A study of more than 900 women in the UK has found that eating more white pasta and rice is linked to getting menopause earlier, while a diet rich in oily fish is linked to later menopause. However, it is not possible to tell if these diets directly affect the onset of menopause, or if they merely reflect some other, hidden factor. Janet Cade, at the University of Leeds, UK, and colleagues analysed data from 900 women who experienced menopause between the ages of 40 and 65. They found that the average age of menopause was 51, but that certain foods were associated with when menopause begun. Women who ate an additional daily portion of refined white pasta or rice tended to reach menopause around one-and-a-half years earlier than average, while an extra daily serving of oily fish was associated with a delay of more than three years. Diets high in fresh legumes such as peas and beans were linked with women reaching the menopause around a year later. Higher intake of vitamin B6 and zinc were also associated with later menopause.
The age at which menopause begins can have serious health implications for some women, says Cade. Women who go through menopause early can have an increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, while those who do so later can be more likely to develop breast, womb and ovarian cancers. Cade and her colleagues suggest that the antioxidants in legumes may help keep the menstrual cycle going for longer, and that omega 3 fatty acids which are abundant in oily fish may boost this. Its possible that refined carbohydrates increase the risk of insulin resistance, which may interfere with sex hormones. The bodys metabolism plays an important role regulating ovulation and periods, says Channa Jayasena, at Imperial College London. But he warns against inferring a dietary recipe for delaying the menopause from this study. Unfortunately, a big limitation of these observational studies is their inability to prove that dietary behaviour actually causes early menopause. Until we have that type of proof, I see no reason for people to change their diet.
New Scientist, 30 April 2018 ; http://www.newscientist.com/