A University of Leeds study links high-carb diets with early-onset menopause – but some argue the results are inconclusive, with one reproductive health expert saying there is “no reason for people to change their diet”.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, tracked the typical dietary intake of 14,172 women, 914 of whom went through a natural menopause during the study period.
A diet high in refined carbohydrates such as rice and pasta was associated with menopause coming one and a half years earlier than the average age of 51. The authors speculate that these foods may increase the risk of insulin resistance, which in turn can raise oestrogen levels. This may contribute to an earlier age at menopause, the authors say.
On the other hand, women who followed a diet high in legumes such as peas, bean and lentils went through menopause a year and a half later than average.
However, experts in reproductive health have said the study fails to draw a direct link between diet and age at onset of menopause.
Dr Channa Jayasena, clinical senior lecturer and consultant in reproductive endocrinology and andrology at Imperial College, said: “The body’s metabolism plays an important role in regulating ovulation and having periods.
“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.”
Kathy Abernethy, menopause specialist nurse and chairwoman of the British Menopause Society, said: "This study doesn't prove a link with the foods mentioned, but certainly contributes to the limited knowledge we currently have on why some women go through menopause earlier than others."