An Italian study has found that women may be able to lower the risk of endometriosis by having less red meat in their diet.
Two times as likely to contract disease
The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, found that women who ate meat every day were two times as likely to contract endometriosis as women who ate less meat and more fruit and vegetables.
University of Milan researchers interviewed 500 women with endometriosis and 500 healthy women of similar age and background but with no history of endometriosis. They asked the women about their diet in the past year, including how often they ate meat, dairy produce and fruit and vegetables per week and how much alcohol and caffeine they consumed.
High fruit and vegetable intake lowered risk by 40%
Scientists then looked at the responses, estimated how many portions of each food type the women had eaten each week and ranked the intake as low, intermediate or high.
The women who had the highest intake (seven or more times per week) of meat (beef, other red meat and ham) increased their risk of endometriosis by between 80 and 100%. In comparison, women who ate lots of fresh fruit and vegetables lowered their risk of endometriosis by about 40%. The other foods studied had no link with endometriosis.
More research needed
The scientists said their study was limited because they could only look at some foods people commonly eat. Also, women who eat a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables might be healthier in general. More research is needed.
If the findings are confirmed, eating the right diet could cut the rate of endometriosis to around 3 or 4%, which would mean about 800,000 fewer women with the disease in Europe.
Diet has been shown to modify the risk of a number of estrogen-related diseases such as endometrial and ovarian cancers. Endometriosis occurs when the tissue which normally lines the uterus is found elsewhere in the body, causing pain and sometimes infertility.
1. F. Parazzini; et al., “Selected Food Intake and Risk of Endometriosis,” Human Reproduction, 2004: doi:10.1093/humrep/deh395.