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expert reaction to study looking at dietary intake and age at menopause

A new study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, reports that some food groups and specific nutrients are individually predictive of age at natural menopause.


Prof Saffron Whitehead, Emeritus Professor of Endocrinology at St George’s University of London and Society for Endocrinology member, said:

“This study looked at the effects of diet on the age of menopause onset. Sadly, most of the results obtained were insignificant although did show some trends. The timing of menopause is dependent on many factors including the total number of eggs that each female is born with in their ovaries at birth. Diet and socioeconomic factors can affect the different amounts of food intake (carbohydrates versus proteins or fat) and determine the amount of body fat, which can be a source of oestrogen production. Loss of oestrogen can increase insulin resistance and lead to metabolic changes. There are many caveats to this study and, as the authors acknowledge, it is simply observational. So, we cannot say that eating more grapes, oily fish and food with anti-oxidants can make a difference. 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. There are too many other factors involved.”


Dr Channa Jayasena, Clinical Senior Lecturer & Consultant in Reproductive Endocrinology at Imperial College London and Society for Endocrinology member, said:

“This is a large study looking at diet and the age of menopause in a population of women. The body’s metabolism plays an important role regulating ovulation and having periods. 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.”


* ‘Dietary intake and age at natural menopause: results from the UK Women’s Cohort Study’ by Yashvee Dunneram et al. published in Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health on Monday 30 April 2018.


Declared interests

None received.

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