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More Thiamin, Riboflavin In Diet May Prevent PMS


Women may reduce the incidence of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) by about 35 percent if they include more foods rich in thiamin and riboflavin in their diet, according to a new study. Beans, yogurt, and spinach are among the foods women can enjoy to help prevent this often disquieting, even debilitating condition.

Two B vitamins can help prevent PMS

According to a new study performed by investigators from Harvard, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Iowa, women who have a high intake of foods rich in riboflavin and thiamin are less likely to experience PMS. The researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing data from women who had participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort.

After a ten-year follow-up, 1,057 women had confirmed PMS and 1,968 women without PMS were chosen as controls. An evaluation of the women’s dietary information collected over the ten years showed that intake of foods containing thiamine and riboflavin was associated with a reduced risk of developing PMS. For example, there was a 35 percent lower incidence of PMS among women who had the highest intake of riboflavin two to four years before diagnosis versus women who had the lowest average intake.

When other B vitamins were examined, the researchers did not observe any association between incidence of PMS and intake of niacin, vitamin B6, folate, or vitamin B12. Intake of B vitamins from supplements also was not associated with a lower risk of PMS.

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Premenstrual syndrome affects an estimated 85 percent of menstruating women, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Although most women experience mild symptoms, about 3 to 8 percent have a more severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Hormone fluctuations appear to be the main cause of PMS, and changing hormone levels affect some women more than others. Other possible causes of PMS include low levels of vitamins and minerals (as illustrated by the new study), consumption of salty foods (which can cause fluid retention), and intake of alcohol and/or caffeine, which may alter energy and mood.

Good food sources of riboflavin include crimini mushrooms, low-fat yogurt, eggs, soybeans, spinach, and calf’s liver. Foods containing thiamin include sunflower seeds, tuna, black beans, peas, navy beans, lentils, and pinto beans.

The authors of the new study report that “we observed a significantly lower risk of PMS in women with high intakes of thiamine and riboflavin from food sources only.” Therefore a change in diet may be an effective and convenient way for women to prevent PMS.

Chocano-Bedova PO et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; online doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.009530