Compared with a diet high in fats, meats, desserts, and snacks, adherence to a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts may be associated with a lower risk for developing mental, physical, and genitourinary menopausal symptoms, according to a study published in Menopause.

Researchers conducted a cross-sectional study of 400 postmenopausal women attending health centers in Iran in 2016. Women with at least 1 year of menopause and referred for routine primary care visits were included in the study. Exclusion criteria included body mass index (BMI) ≥ 40 kg/m2; smoking at least one cigarette per week; comorbid disease such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, or diabetes; hysterectomy; and/or hormonal therapy within the past 6 months.

Participants completed a questionnaire to assess for general characteristics such as years of menopause, education level, household size, marital status, economic status, type and amount of dietary supplements, and drug use. Menopause symptoms were evaluated through the Menopause Rating Scale (MRS) questionnaire that consists of 11 symptoms of menopause in 3 areas: physical symptoms (4 questions) such as hot flashes, night sweats, and muscle and joint pains; mental symptoms (4 questions) such as depression, nervousness, and lack of concentration; and genitourinary symptoms (3 questions) such as decreased feelings of sexual desire and satisfaction, urinary problems, and vaginal dryness and burning.   

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A 147-item Food Frequency Questionnaire was used to document the participants’ food intake in the past year. Participants were asked how many times per day, week, month, or year they consumed a certain food item and in what quantity. Linear regression was used to examine the relationship between dietary patterns and menopause symptoms.

The researchers identified 3 major dietary patterns: vegetables and fruits (VF); mayonnaise, liquid oils, sweets, and desserts (MLSD); and solid fats and snacks (SFS). A VF diet was directly associated with increased physical activity and energy intake (P <.001) and correlated with the head of the household being retired (P =.003). The MLSD dietary pattern was associated with higher energy intake (P <.001) and BMI (P =.003). The SFS dietary pattern was associated with higher energy intake (P <.001) and self or government employment of the family head (P =.007).

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The VF dietary pattern was found to have significant association with lower scores in general (β =-1.37; SE=1.08; P <.001), physical (β =-1.54; SE=1.09; P <.001), and mental (β = -1.58; SE=1.11; P <.001) symptoms but not genitourinary symptoms (β = -1.05; SE=1.13; P =.9). The researchers found a direct association of scores of general and genitourinary symptoms with the MLSD dietary pattern (β =1.15; SE=1.08; P <.001 and β =1.54; SE=1.1; P <.001, respectively). A strong adherence to the SFS dietary pattern was significantly related to higher scores of general (β =1.23; SE=1.09; P =.01), physical (β =1.24; SE=1.09; P =.04), and mental (β =1.29; SE=1.12; P <.001) symptoms. The relationship between SFS dietary pattern and genitourinary symptoms was not statistically significant in unadjusted (β =-1.04; SE=1.12; P =.9) and adjusted (β =-1.1; SE=1.1; P =.8) regression models.

“This study indicates that adherence to a healthier dietary pattern (ie, VF) may be associated with the lower risk of menopausal symptoms,” the authors concluded. “Conversely, adopting an unhealthy diet (ie, MLSD or SFS) may be associated with higher prevalence of these symptoms during menopause.”


Soleymani M, Siassi F, Qorbani M, et al. Dietary patterns and their association with menopausal symptoms: a cross-sectional study [published online October 22, 2018]. Menopause. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001245