Researchers from the University of Leeds looked at the effect of diet on the onset of the menopause.
Their study involved more than 35,000 women aged between 35 and 69, who provided information on their weight history, physical activity levels, reproductive history, and use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
They also estimated the quantities of 217 food items they ate every day by completing a food frequency questionnaire.
Four years later, the women were re-surveyed on whether or not they had gone through the menopause.
Results revealed that 914 women naturally went through the menopause between age 40-65, with an average age of 51.
Interestingly, certain foods seemed associated with the timing of the menopause.
Each additional daily portion of refined carbs such as pasta and rice was associated with reaching the menopause 1.5 years earlier.
But each additional portion of oily fish and fresh legumes was associated with a delay of more than three years.
Having a vegetarian diet also appears to affect when you reach the menopause – those who didn’t eat meat arrived at the menopause almost a year earlier than those who ate meat.
The researchers suggest that the antioxidants found in legumes, and omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish may be responsible for the delay in menopause.
Conversely, refined carbs boost the risk of insulin resistance, which can interfere with sex hormone activity and boost oestrogen levels, bringing the menopause forwards.
While this was just an observational study, the researchers hope that the findings will encourage women to be more conscious of the wider effects of their diets.
The researchers said: “Our findings confirm that diet may be associated with the age at natural menopause. This may be relevant at a public health level since age at natural menopause may have implications on future health outcomes.”