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Published: Saturday, March 19, 2011 - 16:03

In a 10 year study involving over three thousand women who, at the outset, did not have pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, has shown that a diet rich in Vitamin B appears to lessen the risk of developing this condition. Intake of supplements did not have the same beneficial effect.

Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) has been a subject of extensive studies over the years but the cause is not really known.

The study results published online in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on February 23, 2011 show that intakes of thiamine and riboflavin from food sources were each inversely associated with pre-menstrual syndrome occurrence. In other words, the higher the intake of these two types of Vitamin B, the lower the incidence and severity of PMS.  For example, women in the highest quintile of riboflavin intake 2–4 years before the year the diagnosis was made had a 35% lower risk of developing PMS than did those in the lowest. Interestingly there was no significant associations between incident PMS and dietary intakes of the other types of Vitamin B, namely, Niacin, vitamin-B6, folic acid, and vitamin B-12.  Also quite significantly, intake of B vitamins from supplements was not associated with a lower risk of PMS.

Whilst this does not conclusively prove that this kind of diet is effective in staving off PMS, women with the condition "might want to evaluate their diet and make sure they're having a reasonable amount a day of thiamine and riboflavin-rich foods," said Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, associate professor of public health at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Severe PMS, which affects about one in six women, is sometimes treated with either birth control pills or antidepressants; Professor Bertone-Johnson, who co-authored the study, said.

Reducing the chance of PMS through diet may be an alternative to some of these treatments, which are expensive and often have unpleasant side effects, she said.

The researchers looked at the diets of more than 3000 women who filled out food surveys three times over 10 years. During this time, about 1000 women had symptoms of moderate to severe PMS such as anxiety, depression, irritability, abdominal pain, fatigue and bloating.

The standard intake recommendation for adult women is 1.1 milligrams each of thiamine and riboflavin per day. But the researchers in this study found that higher amounts were needed to show a benefit, Bertone-Johnson said.

Women who reported eating about 1.9 mg of thiamine per day were less likely to have PMS. About two in five developed PMS compared to three in five women who ate about 1.2 mg/day. The rates were the same for women who ate about 2.5 mg of riboflavin per day compared to women who ate around 1.4 mg per day.

It's relatively easy to eat this much thiamine and riboflavin a day, Bertone-Johnson said. That's about two to three bowls of fortified cereal, three quarters of a cup of dried beans, or about three ounces (85 grams) of red meat, for thiamine. About one to two bowls of fortified cereal provides this much riboflavin, or a three ounce (85 grams) portion of cow's liver.

No evidence in support of supplements

Supplements, which the study did not find linked to PMS symptoms are a popular way to treat PMS, even though there's no evidence they are effective, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The fact that they are so popular may explain why there was only a link for vitamin B-rich food, and not supplements. Professor Bertone-Johnson said women who are more likely to have PMS may be taking them to treat it, which could skew the results to show less of an effect.

For women who don't already have PMS, Professor Bertone-Johnson suggests just eating a healthy diet based on a wide variety of foods.

This way, a woman is "going to be getting a sufficient amount of these nutrients, as well as other beneficial things," she said.

The general subject of PMS is covered in more detail here:

Source of original article:

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Vitamin B-rich diet may lessen risk of suffering from PMS

By Dr Joe Kabyemela, MD