05/01/2018 11:45 EDT

Oily Fish Could Stave Off Menopause, According To New Study

Women whose diets were heavy in pasta and rice experienced menopause earlier.

For some women, the thought of going through menopause elicits this reaction:

While others may go through something akin to this:

Regardless of whether we're dreading it or embracing it, women can expect to go through a ton of changes once menopause hits, and many of them (aside from your period ending, hoorah!), can be unpleasant. (Boo-urns hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, thinning hair and dry skin.)

But for those of us who want to delay the onset of menopause as long as possible, there may be a simple solution: eat more oily fish and legumes (such as beans and peas).

According to a new study published in the BMJ Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health this week, women who eat a high intake of that specific type of fish and fresh legumes were more likely to be hit by menopause later (specifically, 3.3 years per portion/day and and 0.9 years per portion/day, respectively), than women who eat significantly less of both.

The study involved more than 14,000 women between the ages of 40–65 from the UK Women's Cohort Study (which sampled more than 35,000 women from England, Scotland, and Wales between the ages of 35 and 69) who had gone through natural menopause — in this case, menopause was defined as the "permanent cessation of menstrual periods for at least 12 consecutive months."

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Hot flashes are no joke.

Researchers took into account the women's weight, physical activity, reproductive history, and their use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). They found that the average age that women hit menopause was 51 years old, and those whose diet was heavy with foods such as pasta and rice were more likely to experience menopause about 1.8 years earlier than the average woman.

Women who consumed more vitamin B6 and zinc were more likely to delay menopause. And they had to eat 90 grams of oily fish a day to experience menopause 3.3 years earlier, according to the Independent.

According to Medical News Today, types of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and sardines, among others, and they note that oily fish has the benefit of being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for your heart.

Oily fish is also a good source of lean protein, and studies have shown that eating it regularly may lower the risk of dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, and breast cancer, although more research on the associations need to be conducted.

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The study also noted that there have been few studies that have looked into the association between diet and the age that women reach menopause. Professor Saffron Whitehead of St George's University of London, told Science Media Centre that readers should know that the study is "simply observational."

"We cannot say that eating more grapes, oily fish and food with antioxidants can make a difference," Whitehaid explained.

"That said it is an interesting approach to investigate the timing of the menopause but I am not yet convinced that diet alone can account for the age of the onset of the menopause. There are too many other factors involved."

But study co-author Janet Cade, a professor of nutritional epidemiology, said that the study is a good start for looking at how diet affects menopause, as "the age at which menopause begins can have serious health implications for some women."

According to the Mayo Clinic, complications of menopause can include cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, urinary incontinence, discomfort and/or bleeding during sexual intercourse, and weight gain.

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