Plant protein found to reduce reproductive health problems in women

A study entitled Indications that Veggie Protein May Stave Off Early Menopause that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that the intake of high amounts of vegetable proteins from food such as soy, tofu, and whole grain can protect women from the negative effects of early menopause and prolong reproductive function.

Lead author Maegan Boutot, along with her adviser, Professor Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, underscored the importance of menopausal preparation, noting, “A better understanding of how dietary vegetable protein intake is associated with ovarian aging may identify ways for women to modify their risk of early onset menopause and associated health conditions.”

The researchers, who were associated with the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health observed the relationship between diet and early menopause risk among members of the Nurses Health Study II, which is comprised of 116,000 women whose ages ranged from 25 and 42 when they entered it in 1989.

According to the study, a one-percent increase in plant-based protein is equivalent to a six-percent decrease in the chances of early onset menopause which typically occurs at age 45. Early menopause also carries with it several negative effects including premature death, osteoporosis, early mental decline, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. (Related: Early menopause in women raises the risk for type 2 diabetes, research shows.)

Early menopause, which can occur naturally or be induced (as the outcome of the surgical removal of ovaries or chemotherapy), afflicts one in 20 (between five and 10 percent) women in the United States.

Researchers of the study found that women whose daily calorie intake consisted of 6.5 percent of vegetable protein lowered their risk of experiencing early menopause by 16 percent, compared to women whose daily intake of vegetable protein amounted to only four percent of calories.

The recommended vegetable protein intake is equivalent to three to four servings of food like breakfast cereal, nuts, pasta, and tofu, or about 32.5 grams per day, for a woman with a 2,000-calorie per day diet.

Though relatively few women in our study consumed very high levels of vegetable protein and our power for analyses of more extreme intake levels was limited, women consuming nine or more percent of their calories from vegetable protein had a hazard ratio of 0.41 (95 percent confidence interval = 0.19-0.88),” Boutot and Bertone-Johnson said.

Meanwhile, women who partook of only red meat every day – without vegetables to balance their meal – increased their risk of early onset menopause by 12 percent.

The authors said that their study was the first one to analyze the correlation of protein intake and early onset menopause, as prior studies profiled the correlation of protein intake to regular menopause. “Study participants in these evaluations were substantially older at baseline than in our study, precluding the ability to specifically evaluate risk for early menopause.”

In relation to these findings, a study that was published in the British Medical Journal in 2016 showed that teenage girls who had a daily diet of fruits and vegetables reduced their chances of developing breast cancer by 25 percent.

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