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Nutrition and Menopause

What does menopause have to do with nutrition? Possibly, quite a bit. New research suggests what women eat may determine when they enter menopause.

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that after tracking more than 35,000 women for four years, menopause tended to start earlier among those whose diets were heavy in refined carbs. In contrast, menopause tended to begin later among those who consumed a diet rich in fish and legumes.

While the study didn’t identify a clear link, researchers speculate that menopause may be delayed or hastened due to the way certain foods affect hormones. For example, refined carbs are one of the main culprits for insulin resistance. A high level of circulating insulin could interfere with hormone activity and boost estrogen levels, both of which might increase the number of menstrual cycles and deplete the woman’s egg supply faster, resulting in an earlier menopause.

On average, menopause began at 51 for the women in this study. But for every additional daily intake of a standard portion of refined carbs, menopause onset began about 1.5 years earlier. The findings also showed every additional daily portion of fish and legumes was linked to a delay in menopause by roughly three years. Higher daily intake of both vitamin B6 and zinc was similarly linked to delayed menopause.

There are many factors that have an effect on the onset of menopause and the symptoms women experience. With March being National Nutrition Month, I encourage women of all ages to ensure they’re eating healthy foods that nourish their bodies. To discuss menopause and its signs and symptoms with a board-certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist (OB/GYN) provider at Barton Women’s Health, make an appointment by calling 530.543.5711 or visit BartonHealth.org/WomensHealth.

Dr. Clare Rudolph is a board-certified physician at Barton Women’s Health and provides a wide range of of obstetrical and gynecological (OB/GYN) services.