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Pasta diet could bring on menopause faster, say researchers

New research led by scientists at Leeds University in the United Kingdom suggests that a diet rich in legumes and fish may put off the natural onset of menopause, while foods rich in carbohydrates may accelerate it.

The researchers found having a high intake of oily fish and fresh legumes - such as peas and beans - was associated with a menopause delay of more than three years.

Women who ate a lot of refined (white) pasta and rice were more likely to start the menopause one and a half years earlier, on average. While early menopause is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, depression and bone degeneration, it also protects women against some forms of cancer, including ovarian, breast, and endometrial.

But study co-author Janet Cade, a professor of nutritional epidemiology, said that the study is a good start for looking at how diet affects menopause, as "the age at which menopause begins can have serious health implications for some women".

"As such, we can not really recommend women to consume these specific foods to influence their onset of natural menopause", Dunneram said.

When comparing vegetarians with meat eaters, the researchers found that eating meat was linked with a 1-year delay in menopause onset. The results were revealed Monday in a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

About 14,000 women were tracked for four years post-survey, during which just over 900 experienced natural menopause.

Of all the women, 914 experienced menopause naturally between the ages of 40 and 65. The team took factors including weight and use of hormone replacement therapies into account, but could not consider genetic factors.

Dunneram and colleagues examined the data available from the UK Women's Cohort Study - a survey of over 35,000 British-based women aged between 35 and 69.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are in oily fish, also stimulate antioxidant capacity in the body.

"That said it is an interesting approach to investigate the timing of the menopause but I am not yet convinced that diet alone can account for the age of the onset of the menopause".

The maturation of eggs and their release, says the team, are affected negatively by reactive oxygen species.

Refined carbohydrates can increase the risk of insulin resistance, boosting oestrogen levels and interfering with hormones related to reproduction.

Women who ate lots of vegetables such as green beans and peas went through the menopause around a year later than those who did not eat them. "There are too many other factors involved". 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.

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