Study shows women’s iron intake could lower PMS risk

By Jeffrey Okerman

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A new study released this week by the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University found that women who maintain a diet rich in iron are 30 to 40 percent less likely to develop premenstrual syndrome, according to a University press release.

The study, authored by Patricia Chocano-Bedoya of Harvard, is one of the first to research the connection between the intake of dietary minerals and their effect on the development of PMS. The results were published online by the American Journal of Epidemiology.

 Joined by Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson and her team from UMass, Chocano-Bedoya’s study chronicled the mineral intake of approximately 3,000 women over a 10-year study period. With the baseline for the study being PMS-free women, participants were required to complete three food frequency questionnaires over the decade, from which researchers compared the mineral intake of those experiencing menstrual symptoms against those who experienced no or few symptoms.

At the end of the study, 1,057 women were diagnosed with PMS while 1,968 were PMS free.

“We found that women who consumed the most non-heme iron, the form found primarily in plant foods and in supplements, had a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of developing PMS than women who consumed the lowest amount of non-heme iron,” Bertone-Johnson said.

Additionally, she added that those who reported the highest levels of potassium were at higher risk of receiving a PMS diagnosis.

Bertone-Johnson believes that further tests need to be conducted on mineral intake, but adds that “women at risk for PMS should make sure they are meeting the (recommended daily allowance) for non-heme iron and zinc.” 

“The level of iron intake at which we saw a lower risk of PMS, roughly greater than 20 mg per day, is higher than the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron for premenopausal women, which is 18 mg per day,” she said.

“However, as high iron intake may have adverse health consequences, women should avoid consuming more than the tolerable upper intake level of 45 mg per day unless otherwise recommended by a physician,” she added.

An identical effect was found with zinc. While zinc intake greater than 15 mg per day suggested lower PMS risk, the current recommended daily allowance is currently set at eight mg per day. Bertone-Johnson advised that women should avoid an intake of the “tolerable limit” of 40 mg per day.

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at [email protected]