WOMEN'S HEALTH
March 29, 2013

Dietary Help for PMS

Women with good levels of a certain form of iron are less prone to PMS. Potassium is another story.

Bloating, irritability, pain. The symptoms of PMS can be a monthly problem for many women.

Premenstrual syndrome may have met its match. Women with a greater intake of non-heme iron, the kind found in most plant foods, have a 30 percent to 40 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with PMS than those with a lower intake, according to a new study.

The investigators also saw a moderate link between greater zinc intake and lower PMS risk. A higher potassium intake was associated with greater PMS risk.

It is easy to get enough non-heme iron in a balanced diet. For example, the RDA of iron may be found in 1 to 1.5 servings of iron-fortified cereal or in supplements.

The findings overall were not surprising, Patricia Chocano-Bedoya, lead author on the study, told TheDoctor
. But the authors were a little surprised by the correlation between potassium and PMS. They had expected to find that it lowered PMS risk rather than increasing it.

The researchers used data on 3,025 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. The women filled out three food frequency questionnaires over the 10-year study period. At the end of 10 years, 1,057 women were diagnosed with PMS and 1,968 were not. The investigators then compared the reported mineral intake of those diagnosed with PMS with that of women who were not.

The level at which the scientists saw a protective effect was roughly greater than 20 mg of non-heme iron per day, which is slightly higher than the recommended daily allowance (RDA ) for premenopausal women of 18 mg per day.

There is no need to go overboard, however. “You should definitely adhere to the RDA recommendations,” says Chocano-Bedoya, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. She goes on to say that it is easy to get enough non-heme iron in a balanced diet. For example, the RDA of iron may be found in 1 to 1.5 servings of iron-fortified cereal or in supplements.

“High iron intake [can] have adverse health consequences, [so] women should avoid consuming more than the tolerable upper intake level of 45 mg per day unless otherwise recommended by a physician," Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, senior author on the study and an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst School of Public Health, said in a statement.

More studies are needed to further examine what part minerals play in the symptoms, such as bloating and moodiness, that comprise PMS.

The investigators work is published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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