Researcher at UMass Amherst Finds Diet Rich in Calcium and Vitamin D May Decrease Risk of PMS

AMHERST, Mass. - A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D may lower the risk of developing premenstrual syndrome (PMS), according to a study in the June 13 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. The principal researcher on the project is Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson, a public health professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

While most women may experience mild emotional or physical premenstrual symptoms, as many as eight to 20 percent of women experience symptoms severe enough to meet the definition of premenstrual syndrome, characterized by moderate to severe symptoms that substantially interfere with normal life activities and interpersonal relationships, according to background information in the article. Previous studies have suggested that calcium supplements and vitamin D, a hormone that regulates the absorption of calcium, may reduce premenstrual occurrence and severity.

Bertone-Johnson and colleagues at UMass Amherst compared the diets and supplement use of 1,057 women aged 27 to 44 years who reported developing PMS over the course of 10 years to 1,968 women who reported no diagnosis of PMS or no or minimal premenstrual symptoms in the same time period. The women, who participated in the Nurses Health Study (NHS), all reported no PMS in 1991, at the beginning of the study period. Their intake of calcium and vitamin D from diet and/or supplements was calculated from food frequency and standard NHS questionnaires administered in 1991, 1995 and 1999.

“We observed a significantly lower risk of developing PMS in women with high intakes of vitamin D and calcium from food sources, equivalent to about four servings per day of skim or low-fat milk, fortified orange juice or low-fat dairy foods such as yogurt,” the authors write. “These dietary intakes correspond to approximately 1,200 mg. of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D from food sources. While previous studies have observed the benefits of calcium supplements for treating PMS, this is the first, to our knowledge, to suggest that calcium and vitamin D may help prevent the initial development of PMS.”

“Our findings, together with those from several small randomized trials that found calcium supplements to be effective in treating PMS, suggest that a high intake of calcium and vitamin D may reduce the risk of PMS,” the authors conclude. “Clinical trials of this issue are warranted. In the interim, given that calcium and vitamin D may also reduce risk of osteoporosis and some cancers, clinicians may consider recommending these nutrients even for younger women.”

Editor''s Note: This study was supported by a grant from GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, Parsippany, N.J., and a grant from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Md. Adrianne Bendich, Ph.D., a co-author, is an employee of GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Tums and Oc-Cal calcium supplements.