By I Soussis MD, Fertility Specialist
Fruit intake, in particular citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, may protect women from endometriosis, a study published at Human Reproduction suggests.
Endometriosis is a hormone-dependent disorder characterized by the growth of endometrial tissue in sites outside the uterus. Although the cause remains unclear, it is known that genetics, immune response, and environmental factors contribute to its progression.
Studies have proposed that diet may also play a role in endometriosis, as it can affect the inflammatory process and change steroid hormones’ activity.
In the study “Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of endometriosis,” the researchers evaluated whether the consumption of fruits and vegetables could influence the incidence of endometriosis.
The team reviewed the clinical records of 70,835 premenopausal women who were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II) and followed between 1991 and 2013. During this time, 2,609 cases of endometriosis were surgically confirmed, 313 of which were associated with infertility.
In general, increased consumption of fruits was found to be linked to a reduced risk of endometriosis.
Women consuming more than one serving of citrus fruits per day had a 22% lower endometriosis risk, compared to women consuming less than 1 serving per week. No association was observed between total vegetable intake and endometriosis risk.
However, women consuming more than 1 serving per day of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts) had a 13% higher risk of endometriosis compared to those consuming less than1 serving per week.
Altogether, the results suggested that “higher intake of fruits, particularly citrus fruits, is associated with a lower risk of endometriosis,” the researchers stated.
This could in part be explained by the effects of the compound beta-cryptoxanthin present in these fruits and may increase the protective effect of retinol (vitamin A).
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables include higher levels of pro-vitamin A nutrients (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin) and women with endometriosis have been reported to have lower intake of vitamin A than women without endometriosis.
In contrast, “consumption of some vegetables increased endometriosis risk, which may indicate a role of gastrointestinal symptoms in both the presentation and exacerbation of endometriosis-related pain,” the researchers stated.
Additional studies could further evaluate the impact of dietary patterns and different combinations of food on the manifestation and development of endometriosis.