According to a new British study, a diet rich in fish and legumes would delay natural menopause. In contrast, high intake of refined carbohydrates such as rice and pasta can speed it up.
Menopause is a complicated time in a woman’s life. Usually occurring around the age of 50, it is the period when a woman’s ovaries stop functioning. It is often announced with more or less uncomfortable signs such as hot flashes, disturbed sleep, mood disorders or joint pain.
Menopause is also often accompanied by a weight gain of between 2 and 8 kilograms and a loss of bone density. “It is difficult for a woman to live because it is very painful to accept that her metabolism changes,” explained the nutritionist Patrick Serog.
This inevitable moment, however, could be delayed naturally through diet, says a new British study published on Monday, April 30 in the journal Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
According to researchers at the University of Leeds, a diet rich in fish and legumes would delay the onset of menopause. On the contrary, intakes too rich in refined carbohydrates like rice and pasta would accelerate it. This implies that along with genetic, behavioral and environmental factors, the diet plays a role in the time when menopause occurs.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers used a cohort of 35,000 women aged 35 to 69 from England, Scotland and Wales. All provided information on the food they ate each day by completing a questionnaire. They also provided information on potentially influential menopausal factors such as weight history, physical activity levels, reproductive history, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Four years later, the researchers again studied the participants. Of the 14,000 women still participating in the study, 914 of them were then naturally menopausal. The average age of menopause was 51 years old.
By looking at the participants’ diets, the researchers found that the consumption of certain foods accelerated or delayed the natural menopause.
Thus, each portion of fatty fish or fresh legumes such as peas or beans is associated with a delay in menopause of more than 3 years. Higher intakes of vitamin B6 and zinc are also associated with later menopause. Conversely, each additional daily portion of refined carbohydrates, and particularly pasta and rice, is associated with menopausal onset a year and a half earlier.
Researchers found that vegetarian women tended to be menopausal a year earlier than those eating meat.
Differences also occur between women who have children and those who do not. Thus, among the latter, eating more grapes and poultry was significantly associated with later menopause.
For the researchers, the way we eat plays a vital role in the onset of natural menopause. They explain that eating a lot of legumes, rich in antioxidants, could preserve menstruation for longer. Oily fish, rich in omega-3, would also stimulate the body’s antioxidant capacity.
In contrast, refined carbohydrates increase the risk of insulin resistance, which may interfere with the activity of sex hormones and increase estrogen levels, increasing the number of menstrual cycles and depleting the ovules.
As for vegetarians, they are likely to eat more fiber and less animal fat than omnivores, both associated with low levels of estrogen.
For researchers, these findings highlighting the link between diet and the onset of menopause could have “an impact on public health”. “The age at which natural menopause occurs can have implications for future health problems,” they say.
For example, early menopausal women are at increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, while those who are late menopausal are at increased risk for breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer.
The results of this observational study are however to put into perspective because they do not prove causality. In addition, the researchers admit that the questionnaires on the frequency of food consumption have been poorly recalled. In addition, “the study sample was also richer and health conscious than average, which may have influenced the results.”