Dietary choices may influence the timing of natural menopause by months and even years, a study suggested.
Later onset of natural menopause was associated with a diet high in both oily fish (3.3-year delay per portion/day: 99% CI 0.8-5.8) and fresh legumes (0.9 years, 99% CI 0.0-1.8), according to Yashvee Dunneram, MSc, of the University of Leeds in England, and colleagues.
Similarly, a diet rich in vitamin B6 (0.6 years per mg/day, 99% CI 0.1-1.2) and zinc (0.3 years per mg/day, 99% CI 0.0-0.6), was tied to later menopause onset, the group reported in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
The finding with oily fish wasn't particularly surprising, the group explained, explaining that this food is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acid, which can potentially improve antioxidant capacity. In turn, "the antioxidant properties exerted by the oily fish intake could possibly offset [reactive oxygen species], therefore decreasing the proportion of follicles undergoing follicular atresia and delaying onset of natural menopause," they added.
On the other hand, a higher intake of refined pasta and rice was tied to an earlier onset of natural menopause (-1.5 years per portion/day, 99% CI -2.8 to 0.2), as was a higher intake of savory snacks (-1.0 years per portion/day, 99% CI -2.1 to -0.0).
A sensitivity analysis reported that women who were not vegetarians tended to have a slightly later onset of natural menopause by 0.8 years when compared to vegetarians (99% CI 0.2-1.4). But non-vegetarians who consumed high amounts of soft drinks saw an associated risk of earlier menopause (-1.3 years per portion/day, 99% CI -2.5 to -0.2).
In a subset of women who had never had children, a later age of natural menopause was also tied to higher intake of both grapes (2.5 years per portion/day, 99% CI 0.0-4.9) and poultry (5.2 years per portion/day, 99% CI 0.1-10.3).
These findings have relevance at a public health level, "since age at natural menopause may have implications on future health outcomes," Dunneram's group noted, adding that "health practitioners might thus also need to take into account the diet of women when dealing with menopause-related issues."
For the U.K. Women's Cohort Study, menstruating women who had never used hormone replacement therapy nor received a bilateral oophorectomy and hysterectomy were included in the analysis. The 4-year analysis included 14,172 individuals, 914 of whom experienced natural menopause during this time. Natural menopause was considered a lack of menstruation for at least 12 consecutive months.
Diet was measured using a 217-item food frequency questionnaire, with foods grouped by culinary uses and nutrient profile.
The study was supported with a scholarship from the Commonwealth Scholarships Commission, UK to Dunneram. Cade was funded by a grant from the UK Medical Research Council.
Cade is a director of the University of Leeds spinoff company Dietary Assessment. No other disclosures were reported.