Womens Health

Nutritional Link to Endometriosis

Eat Fruit

Two studies published in 2004 suggest that adding fruits and vegetables to your diet may protect you against developing endometriosis. At the same time, it has been found that red meat and ham seem to increase the risk of this disease.

At the University of Milan, Italian researchers found a 40% reduction in the incidence of endometriosis in women who eat more green vegetables and fresh fruit. On the other hand, those women who consume large amounts of beef, other red meats, and ham showed an 80-100% increased incidence for the disease.

The researchers in this study compared the dietary patterns of 504 women admitted to the university's gynecology department for endometriosis confirmed by laparoscopy to another 504 women admitted for other, acute conditions unrelated to gynecology, hormones, and the growth of foreign tissue. The participants ranged in age from 20-65 years and were questioned about their diet during the year preceding the interview. The women were asked how many portions of various foods they ate over the course of a typical week with the dietary items in question including major sources of retinoids and carotenoids typical of the Italian diet. Questions about alcohol and coffee consumption were also included.

Aside from the greater risk for endometriosis associated with the consumption of red meat and the reduced risk of the disease from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, it was found that there was no significant increase or reduction of the disease associated with the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, carrots, cheese, fats, fish, liver, milk, and whole grain foods.

Italian researchers hope that these findings will be confirmed in future studies. The authors believe that some attention to diet may reduce the number of endometriosis sufferers from 5% to around 3% of the female population. That means 200,000 fewer outstanding cases of the disease in Italy and 800,000 fewer cases in Europe. The number of new cases of endometriosis in Italy would drop to an annual number of 10,000.

The study has its limitations as it includes only data about select groups of food without regard to portion size or total calorie consumption. There is also the possibility that a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in the consumption of red meat reflects health-conscious attitudes that may lead to the attainment of better overall health care, including the early diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis.

Common Sense

The research is promising and common sense suggests we add more fruit and green vegetables to our diet, while cutting back on the red meat and ham.

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