London, May 1 (PTI) High consumption of refined white pasta and rice may advance the onset of menopause by about one-and-a-half years, a UK study warns.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, also showed that high intake of healthy foods, such as oily fish and fresh legumes, such as peas and green beans is associated with a later onset of the menopause.

Researchers from the University of Leeds examined the link between diet and the onset of menopause in 14,150 women living in the UK.

“This study is the first to investigate the links between individual nutrients and a wide variety of food groups and age at natural menopause in a large cohort of British women,” said Yashvee Dunneram, a postdoctoral researcher at University of Leeds.

“Further studies are needed to improve understanding on how this may impact health and wellbeing,” Dunneram said.

Along with a detailed diet questionnaire, an initial survey collected information on reproductive history and health.

When a follow up survey and questionnaire were conducted four years later, researchers were able to assess the diets of the women who had experienced the onset of a natural menopause in the interim.

The average age at the start of the menopause for women in the UK is 51 years.

Over 900 women between the ages of 40 and 65 had experienced a natural start of their menopause at the time of the follow-up survey.

They had not had menstrual periods for at least 12 consecutive months and menopause had not been brought on by such things as cancer, surgery or pharmaceutical treatments.

Analysis of their diet showed that high intakes of oily fish was associated with a delayed start to menopause by nearly three years, researchers said.

A diet with lots of refined pasta and rice showed that menopause was more likely to occur one and a half years earlier than average, they said.

“The age at which menopause begins can have serious health implications for some women,” said Janet Cade, a professor at the University of Leeds.

“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,” Cade said.

Previous studies have suggested that earlier onset of menopause is associated with lower bone density, osteoporosis and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Later menopause has been associated with a higher risk for breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers, researchers said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.