Researchers from the University of Leeds in the U.K. evaluated women who were between the ages 45 and 60. The researchers looked at their onset of natural menopause. The study participants completed food frequency questionnaires as well, so that the researchers could evaluate associations with diet.

Based on the results, a diet composed of foods rich in carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice, was associated with earlier menopause. On the other hand, a diet rich in legumes and oily fish slowed down the onset of menopause. Overall, eating more carbohydrate-rich foods was associated with women reaching menopause 0.2 years earlier among women 50 years old and younger. The average age of menopause onset in the U.K. and the U.S. is 51.

Although legumes are still relatively rich in carbohydrates within the context of a low-carb diet, the researchers believe that its positive effect on menstruation is due to its antioxidant content that may support menstruation for longer. At the same time, because increased carbohydrate intake elevates the risk of insulin resistance, menstruation could be affected due to increased estrogen and altered hormone levels, especially if the subject is overweight.

The researchers concluded that eating more foods rich in carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice, cause an earlier onset of menopause by 0.2 years in women aged 50 and below.

“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,” explained Janet Cade, one of the researchers.

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