By Marcia-Ruth Ndege ‘21
Research suggests that menopause is predetermined by an individual’s genes, environmental factors, behavior, and diet. Yashvee Dunneram, an expert in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Leeds’ School of Food Science and Nutrition, led a study researching the effect of food on menopause. To perform this study, researchers gathered a sample of 35,000 women between the ages of 35 and 69. The women provided information on physical activity levels, weight loss patterns, reproductive history, and estimates of the quantities of foods eaten daily. Four years later, only 14,000 women reported back to the researchers. Of these women, 914 had gone through menopause after the age of 40 but before 65; the average age at menopause was 51 years old.
Interestingly enough, researchers found that for every daily portion of refined carbs, menopause was experienced 1.5 years earlier; conversely, daily portions of fish oil and legumes postponed menopause by an additional 3 years. The researchers concluded that eating legumes—foods that are high in antioxidants—counters egg maturation and release, which occurs in the presence of reactive oxidative species. In addition, results suggested that refined carbs increase the risk of insulin resistance, which in turn increases oestrogen levels as well as the number of menstrual cycles the women experience while consuming their finite supply of eggs. Researchers also noticed that meat eaters tended to experience menopause approximately one year after vegetarians and that childless women who regularly consumed grapes and poultry had later menopause.
Although their findings appear compelling, the researchers acknowledge the fact that their study was simply observational and cannot prove causality. However, they assert that their research is relevant and even important as women who go through early menopause have an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, while women who experience menopause late in life are at greater risk for several types of cancer.
- Y. Dunneram, et. al., Dietary intake and age at natural menopause: results from the UK Women’s Cohort Study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (2018). doi: 10.1136/jech-2017-209887.
- Image retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-cooking-cuisine-delicious-629093/