A Diet High in Trans Fats Increases Endometriosis Risk
Endometriosis is one of the most common causes of female fertility problems. And in the largest study to date on the link between diet and endometriosis, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have found that fats in a woman’s diet play a deciding role in whether or not she will develop the condition.
Published online March 24, 2010, in the journal Human Reproduction, the study of over 70,000 women showed that women who ate the most trans fats—hydrogenated oils found in fried foods from restaurants, margarine, and some chips and crackers—had a 48 percent increased risk of developing endometriosis, compared with those who ate only small amounts of these “bad fats.” On the flip side, women who ate the most omega-3 oils—”good fats” found in foods like salmon and tuna—were 22 percent less likely to develop the fertility-impairing condition.
Endometriosis occurs when pieces of uterine lining (endometrium) grow outside the uterus. Some women experience no symptoms, but for many, the condition causes severe pain and infertility. As the study authors explained, the cause of endometriosis is poorly understood and there is no cure. Symptoms are usually treated with pain medication, hormone drugs, or surgery.
Researchers hope next to investigate whether diet changes—reducing trans fats and increasing omega-3 oils—can alleviate symptoms in women who already have endometriosis.
“Millions of women worldwide suffer from endometriosis. Many women have been searching for something they can actually do to reduce the risk of developing the disease, and these findings suggest that dietary changes may be something they can do,” says Stacey Missmer, ScD, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Channing Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
You can take steps right now to boost your omega-3 fat intake by eating a few servings a fish each week, snacking on walnuts, or adding a little ground up flax seed to your morning yogurt. Other good sources of omega-3s include tofu, soybeans, shrimp, and winter squash. Eliminate trans fats by avoiding foods made with partially hydrogenated soybean oil and other hydrogenated fats. Check labels carefully and when eating out, avoid fried foods, which are the most likely to contain trans fats.
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