The Foods That Can Significantly Delay Menopause

The Foods That Can Significantly Delay Menopause

New research suggests that eating oily fish could potentially offset the menopause in women by up to three years – but there are also foods that can kickstart it early. So what should you be eating, and what should you avoid?

The study, of more than 14,000 women in the UK, found the average age of menopause was 51 – but women who had a daily dose of oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines or mackerel experienced menopause around three years later. Meanwhile, those who consumed starchy foods like rice and pasta every day were found to hit the menopause about 18 months earlier. Refined carbohydrates can increase the risk of insulin resistance, which can interfere with the activity of hormones; boosting oestrogen levels and leading to quicker diminution of egg supply.

The research, undertaken by the University of Leeds and published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, studied the women for four years, and found clear links between the foods they were consuming and the start of their menopause. Alongside oily fish, a diet rich in peas, beans and legumes was also linked to a later menopause, causing a delay of around a year, as the antioxidants found in these foods can affect the maturation and release of eggs. And, on average, meat eaters also experienced menopause around a year later than vegetarians.

But there were also risks associated with going through the menopause earlier or later. Those who go through it earlier are at a higher risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, while those who get it later are more likely to develop womb, ovarian and breast cancers.

Over the period of the study, more than 900 women between the ages of 40 and 65 had experienced a natural start to the menopause. Study co-author and Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology, Janet Cade, said: “The age at which menopause begins can have serious health implications for some women. 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.”

Lead author Yashvee Dunneram, of the School of Food Science and Nutrition, said: "This study is the first to investigate the links between individual nutrients and a wide variety of food groups and age at natural menopause in a large cohort of British women. But further studies are needed to improve understanding on how this may impact health and wellbeing."

Kathy Abernethy, Chairman of the British Menopause Society, said: “We welcome research like this as age of menopause can affect future health, with women experiencing menopause at a young age having greater health risks later in life if they do not receive appropriate treatment.”

The study was observational, meaning that it didn’t prove particular food groups caused early or later menopause in women, but Abernethy said that it was still a good reason to aim for a healthy diet.

There were, however, sceptics of the study. Dr Channa Jayasena, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Consultant in Reproductive Endocrinology at Imperial College London said: “The authors suggest that women who took more refined carbs, savoury snacks and being vegetarian had an earlier 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. Until we have that type of proof, I see no reason for people to change their diet.”

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