Protein Intake & Menopause Timing

NEW RESEARCH reveals protein intake tied to menopause timing

Vegan proteinWomen who consume a high amount of vegetable proteins per day have a lower risk for natural-onset early menopause compared with women who consume fewer servings of vegetable protein per day, according to findings published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“This is among the first studies to suggest a relation of vegetable protein intake with early menopause risk or reproductive aging,” Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson, ScD, associate professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Maegan Boutot, MS, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told Endocrine Today. “However, because foods high in vegetable protein, like whole grains, soy and nuts, are high in many important micro- and macronutrients, women should be encouraged to consume more of these foods to lower risk for a range of health conditions.”

Maegan Boutot

Maegan Boutot

Bertone-Johnson, Boutot and colleagues evaluated data from the Nurses’ Health Study II on 85,682 women who were premenopausal in 1991 and followed until 2011 for onset of natural menopause. Researchers sought to determine the association between long-term intake of vegetable protein, animal protein and specific protein-rich foods with the incidence of early natural menopause.

The Harvard food frequency questionnaire was used to assess intake of total protein and protein from vegetable and animal sources in 1991 and every 4 years after. Participants reported on their frequency of consumption of 131 foods, beverages and dietary supplements over the previous year. Participants were divided into quintiles based on the proportion of calories they consumed from vegetable protein: quintile 1 (median percent of calories, 3.7%), quintile 2 (4.4%), quintile 3 (4.9%), quintile 4 (5.4%) and quintile 5 (6.3%).

During the study period, 2,041 women experienced onset of early natural menopause.

The risk for early menopause was 17% lower in participants in quintile 5 of vegetable protein intake compared with quintile 1 (P for trend = .005). The risk for early menopause was 6% with each 1% increase in vegetable protein intake.

Participants who consumed at least 9% of their calories from vegetable protein had a lower risk for early menopause compared with participants who consumed less than 4% (HR = 0.41; 95% CI, 0.19-0.88). The risk for early menopause was not associated with animal (P for trend = .74) or total protein intake (P for trend = .52). There was a nonsignificant 12% lower risk for early menopause in participants with the highest vegetable protein intake compared with those with lower intakes in analyses considering vegetable protein intake at baseline only.

A lower risk for early menopause was associated with intake of pasta, dark bread and cold cereal. The risk for early menopause was 36% lower with each one serving per day of pasta intake after adjustment for all covariates, whereas each one serving per day of red meat was associated with a 12% higher risk.

“We found that women who consumed a higher proportion of their calories from vegetable protein had a significantly lower risk of early menopause, defined as menopause before age 45,” Bertone-Johnson and Boutot said. “Specifically, women who consumed at least 6.5% of their calories as vegetable protein had a 16% lower risk of early menopause than women consuming 4% of their calories from vegetable protein. We did not find that animal protein intake was associated with early menopause risk. Our ongoing research will further evaluate potential mechanisms underlying these findings, as well as investigate how other dietary factors are associated with early menopause risk.” – by Amber Cox

For more information:

Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson, ScD, can be reached at ebertone@schoolph.umass.edu. Maegan Boutot, MS, can be reached at maegan.boutot@gmail.com.

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