Findings of a new study have revealed a link between consumption of certain foods and the age at which menopause starts.

Diet And Onset Of Menopause

Janet Cade, from the University of Leeds, and colleagues looked at the data of more than 14,150 women to investigate a potential link between diet and the onset of menopause.

The researchers found that high intake of healthy food, which include fresh legumes and oily fish, were linked to a later onset of menopause. High consumption of refined pasta and rice, on the other hand, appeared associated with an earlier start.

Further analysis revealed that menopause in women with high intake of oily fish tends to start nearly three years later than average while menopause in women, whose diets contained a high amount of refined pasta and rice, tend to start one and a half years earlier than average.

Meat eaters also tend to experience menopause more than a year later than vegetarians. Higher intake of zinc and vitamin B6 also appeared to delay the onset of menopause

Menopause in women in the United Kingdom, where the study was conducted, usually starts at age 51.

"The age at which menopause begins can have serious health implications for some women," Cade said. "A clear understanding of how diet affects the start of natural menopause will be very beneficial to those who may already be at risk or have a family history of certain complications related to menopause."

Effects Of Early And Late Menopause

Earlier studies showed that earlier onset of menopause is linked to lower bone density, higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, and osteoporosis. A later onset is likewise linked to increased risk of endometrial, ovarian and breast cancers.

The researchers explained that women with earlier menopause spend more years deprived of the benefits of estrogen compared with their counterparts who became menopausal around the normal age range.

Estrogen is a hormone crucial to maintaining health. Earlier menopause may, therefore, place women at increased risk for some poor health outcomes.

"Our findings confirm that diet may be associated with the age at natural menopause," the researchers wrote. "This may be relevant at a public health level since age at natural menopause may have implications on future health outcomes

The study was nonetheless observational and did not demonstrate that food actually caused the timing of menopause.

"It is tempting to speculate that this provides a recipe for delaying menopause. Unfortunately, a big limitation of these observational studies, is their inability to prove that dietary behaviour actually causes early menopause," said Channa Jayasenam from Imperial College.

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