Heavy metals, contained in our diet, responsible for early menopause?

Heavy metals, contained in our diet, responsible for early menopause?

According to a new study carried out in the United States, the presence of heavy metals in water, in vegetables and even in dark chocolate has an impact on women’s health and in particular the arrival of menopause.

Arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead… These heavy metals are found in the urine of American women (but the same thing is found in Europe). A cocktail could possibly be responsible for premature aging of the ovaries, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan.

Heavy metals cause a drop in hormone levels linked to ovulation

While heavy metals can be found in food (including tap water, fish, baby food, root vegetables like beets, rice and dark chocolate), the team at keen to analyze the effect of this contamination on middle-aged women transitioning to menopause.

In total, 549 women were included in the study. The urine analyzed from these women revealed at least 0.3 μg/L of arsenic (micrograms per liter), 0.06 μg/L of cadmium, 0.05 μg/L of mercury and 0.1 μg/L lead. The researchers also looked at their anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) levels. “AMH tells us approximately how many eggs (oocytes) remain in a woman’s ovaries. It’s like a biological clock for the ovaries that can portend health risks in middle age and later in life “, write the researchers in the study.

  • The study found that women with higher levels of metals in their urine were more likely to have lower AMH levels, an indicator of fewer ovaries;
  • Women with the highest amounts of arsenic or mercury in their urine had lower AMH concentrations at the time of their last period;
  • For arsenic, AMH levels were 32.1% lower than in women who had a lower amount of the metal in their urine.
  • For mercury, it was 40.7% lower;
  • Higher cadmium content was associated with a 9% per year decline in AMH levels;
  • Mercury was associated with a 7.3% decline in AMH levels each year.

Early menopause and more fragile health in women

“Our results suggest that these heavy metals could decrease ovarian reserve in middle-aged women during the menopausal transition“, write the researchers in the study.

In other words, the presence of these heavy metals could induce menopause earlier than expected. The fact is not trivial: women who reach menopause earlier may be at higher risk of symptoms such as hot flashes, bone weakness, higher risk of heart disease and cognitive decline.

More in-depth research, particularly with a younger population, is needed. “to fully understand the role of heavy metals as potential ovarian toxicants that decrease ovarian reserves” specify the researchers.

A situation that can be transposed to Europe

The study carried out in the United States is not, however, far removed from our concerns. In Europe too, heavy metal contamination is a fact. In 2021, Santé Publique Europe in its ESTEBAN study noted that 96 to 100% of the French population, adults and children alike, were exposed to heavy metals, whether arsenic, cadmium or even nickel.

Everyday contamination via tap water, seafood or even cereals. Public Health Europe also specified that “the levels measured, whether for children or adults in Europe, were higher than those found in most foreign countries (Europe and North America), except for nickel and copper”.

The contamination of women would therefore be “at least” equivalent in Europe…