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Women in their early 40s with the highest intake of vitamin D and calcium from food sources may have a lower than average risk of starting menopause before age 45, a recent study suggests.

Taking vitamin D or calcium in supplement form had no benefit in the large study of U.S. nurses, the study team writes in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and there may be other substances in dairy foods that also contribute to their apparent protective effect.

“Early menopause can have substantial health impacts for women. It increases their risk of cardiovascular disease and early cognitive decline and osteoporosis,” lead author Alexandra Purdue-Smithe told Reuters Health.

In addition, as women are delaying having kids into their later reproductive years, having early menopause can have a substantial impact on their ability to conceive as they wish, which can have psychological and financial consequences, said Purdue-Smithe, an epidemiologist with the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“Given that (early menopause) affects roughly 10 percent of women in the U.S. and other Western populations, it felt like a worthwhile problem to start investigating and seeing if there are any potentially modifiable risk factors for it,” she said.

Menopause, when a woman stops menstruating and her levels of hormones like estrogen decline, typically happens between the ages of 45 and 55. Menopause before age 45 is considered “early.”

Vitamin D may be involved in some of the hormonal mechanisms of early menopause, but little is known about how dietary vitamin D and calcium affect the risk, Purdue-Smithe and her colleagues write.

They analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, a long-term study of more than 100,000 U.S. registered nurses who were 25 to 42 years old in 1989 when they began answering health questionnaires every two years.

The questionnaires were designed to assess the…



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