Diet and Endometriosis

As Dr. Wisot reported this week, there has recently been a campaign to increase awareness about endometriosis.  This is a disease that affects up to 10% percent of women and, unfortunately, it is a diagnosis that is very difficult to diagnose and treat.  In the last decade, the field of medicine has not made significant advancements in figuring out the cause of endometriosis, but a recent study is showing that dietary habits may mitigate a woman’s risk of developing the disease.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction this month, looked at data collected from over 70,000 premenopausal women from 1991 to 2013 as part of the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort.  The women gave detailed information about their dietary habits via validated food questionnaires every 4 years.

Findings of the study showed that women who consumed more fruit were less likely to develop endometriosis.  Women who consumed 3 or more servings of fruit per day were 14% less likely to develop endometriosis than women who consumed 1 or fewer servings of fruit per day.  Of note though, women who consumed 4 or more servings of fruit per day had no greater advantage than those who consumed 3 servings per day.

Eating citrus fruits seemed to confer the greatest advantage. Women who ate 1 or more servings of citrus fruits per day had a 22% lower risk of developing endometriosis than women who consumed less than 1 serving of citrus fruit per week.

Eating greater amounts of vegetables did not show the same benefit in regards to endometriosis risk.

The study has its limitations, the greatest of which is the self-reported nature of the data.  Any time questionnaires are used to collect data, we have to be aware that there is always some bias in self-reported answers.  That being said, the study has many strengths, including looking at a large number of women over a long duration of time.

Hopefully this study will lead to more research in ways to reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease and eventually figuring out better ways to treat it.

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