Carb co­nun­drum: The link be­tween pasta and early menopause

FETTUCINE CARBONARA TASTES SO GOOD, BUT NOW IT’S SUG­GESTED THAT PASTA AND OTHER REFINED CAR­BO­HY­DRATES COULD BRING ON AN EARLY END TO YOUR MENSTRUAL CY­CLE

Good Health (Australia) - - Content -

‘This could lead to your egg sup­ply run­ning out faster’

What­ever our age, we all know that a diet high in refined car­bo­hy­drates – such as white bread, pasta and rice – isn’t the best for us. It can pile on the pounds dur­ing our 20s, 30s and 40s, and even put us at risk of heart dis­ease and type 2 di­a­betes. But, it turns out, it could also be re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing on menopause pre­ma­turely. So why is a bowl of tagli­atelle to blame? We look at the re­search and speak to nutri­tion­ist Dr Mar­i­lyn Glenville to find out more.

THE PROB­LEM WITH PASTA

When the ex­perts say to eat a Mediter­ranean diet, sadly they don’t mean bowls of Bolog­nese. And the lat­est re­search from the Univer­sity of Leeds has re­vealed that eat­ing large amounts of white pasta and rice could bring menopause for­ward by one and a half years. The av­er­age age for this hor­monal change is 51, mean­ing women could be suf­fer­ing from symp­toms in their 40s. “It’s thought that refined car­bo­hy­drates cause prob­lems with blood sugar and in­sulin re­sis­tance,” ex­plains Dr Glenville. “This could lead to your egg sup­ply run­ning out faster,” she adds. And the end of egg pro­duc­tion sig­nals the start of menopause.

WHY DOES IT MAT­TER?

If more chil­dren aren’t on your wish list, what’s the prob­lem with an early menopause? It’s go­ing to hap­pen even­tu­ally, and surely the thought of no more pe­ri­ods af­ter years of menstrual cy­cles should be a wel­come re­lief? The thing is, menopause sig­nals much more than just the end of your monthly bleed. It also in­di­cates the de­cline in oe­stro­gen, which is key in keep­ing our heart and brain healthy, and also pro­tects our bones. “If a woman goes through the menopause too early, this in­creases her risk of os­teo­poro­sis, as she will be with­out the fe­male hor­mones, par­tic­u­larly oe­stro­gen, for longer,” ex­plains Dr Glenville. Os­teo­poro­sis is a se­ri­ous frag­ile bone dis­ease that is thought to af­fect one in two women over the age of 50 and can cause de­bil­i­tat­ing frac­tures. So, apart from cut­ting back on the sim­ple carbs, what else can we do to pre­vent a pre­ma­ture menopause?

Dr Glenville ad­vises quit­ting smok­ing and re­duc­ing stress, as well as avoid­ing chem­i­cals in prod­ucts such as non-stick pans, car­pets and paints. “A study in 2011 found that women with high lev­els of per­flu­o­ro­car­bons (PFCS) in the body had lower con­cen­tra­tions of oe­stro­gen than women with low PFC lev­els, caus­ing some women to go through the menopause as young as 42,” she ex­plains. The Univer­sity of Leeds found a diet rich in oily fish could also be key in de­lay­ing menopause. “Oily fish con­tains omega 3 es­sen­tial fatty acids, which your body can’t make. They stim­u­late your antioxidant ca­pac­ity, which helps slow down the age­ing process, in­clud­ing in your ovaries,” ex­plains Dr Glenville.

IS LATER BET­TER?

Not nec­es­sar­ily. “With na­ture, it’s al­ways a ques­tion of bal­ance,” says Dr Glenville. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing your last pe­riod over the age of 55 – means that higher lev­els of oe­stro­gen will have been cir­cu­lat­ing for longer. “This could in­crease the risk of con­di­tions that feed on this hor­mone, in­clud­ing en­dometrio­sis, fi­broids and cer­tain types of breast can­cer.” How­ever, with the chances of de­vel­op­ing os­teo­poro­sis four times greater than our like­li­hood of get­ting breast can­cer, she be­lieves, “It’s worse to go through the menopause too early than too late.”

EAS­ING SYMP­TOMS

Diet can also af­fect how well we cope with menopausal symp­toms. Chick­peas, lentils, soya, and kid­ney beans can “sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce hot flushes and night sweats”, says Dr Glenville. A bal­ance of es­sen­tial fatty acids is also key. Too many omega 6s can in­crease in­flam­ma­tion, lead­ing to arthri­tis, col­i­tis, heart dis­ease and can­cer, ex­plains Dr Glenville. She rec­om­mends omega 3 fish oil sup­ple­ments to im­prove mem­ory and con­cen­tra­tion, and to ease aching joints, dry skin and fa­tigue. “Plus, it has a pro­tec­tive ef­fect against Alzheimer’s by pre­vent­ing dam­ag­ing plaque from form­ing in the brain,” she says.

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