How to Pause the Menopause
We know that a diet rich in fish and legumes is healthy, but how many women know that it can delay the onset of the menopause? And women who eat a lot of pasta and rice may hasten the process, scientists have found.
A British study involving more than 35,000 women aged between 25 and 69 from England, Scotland and Wales has found that a woman’s diet, and her intake of meat, fish, vegetables and carbohydrates, may play a role in the age at which she goes through the natural menopause. Natural menopause is when menstrual periods stop permanently for at least 12 consecutive months.
The study, published in the BMJ Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health , found that the average age of menopause was 51, but noted that certain foods play a role in its timing taking into account influential factors such as weight, physical activity, reproductive history and women’s use of hormone replacement therapy.
It found that for each additional daily portion of carbohydrates eaten, particularly pasta and rice, women were more likely to reach the menopause 1.5 years before 51, but that for each additional daily portion of fish and fresh legumes – beans and peas – women could delay the process by more than three years. Women with a higher intake of vitamin B6 and zinc were also more likely to delay the menopause.
Vegetarians were found to reach the menopause at an earlier age than women who ate meat. Non-vegetarians who increased their daily portion of savoury snacks were more likely to reach the menopause by 49 while mothers who ate high levels of oily fish and fresh legumes reached the process at a later date. Women without children were found to delay the menopause by eating more grapes and poultry.
Oily fish, which contacts omega 3 fatty acids, are found to stimulate antioxidants in the body while legumes contain oxidants, which are important in the maturation and release of eggs during ovulation, explained researchers.
Refined carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice, can boost insulin resistance and oestrogen levels, both of which could increase the number of menstrual cycles a women experiences and deplete her egg supply faster.
While vegetarians consume a lot of antioxidants in their diets, they are more likely to eat more fibre and less animal fat which are associated with low oestrogen levels and can affect the timing of the menopause.
Women who go through the menopause early are at increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, while those who go through the process late are at increased risk of breast, womb and ovarian cancers, noted the study.
While the study’s findings confirmed that a woman’s diet could be associated with the age when natural menopause occurs, it cautioned that the women involved in the research were “more affluent and health conscious than average” which may have influenced the findings.
However, given the implications that menopause can have on health conditions later in life, the researchers from the University of Leeds noted that the research was relevant to public health and that health practitioners should take into account the diet of a woman when dealing with menopause-related issues