Though uterine fibroids, also known as uterine leiomyomas, are noncancerous, they can still cause significant pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, and even anemia.¹ Your patients may want to know how to mitigate the risk of developing these growths.
When examining factors that may increase or decrease fibroid risk, your patients may encounter diet and nutrition. Research has suggested that nutrition can be a factor in leiomyoma risk, and recent studies have assessed specific foods and vitamins to pinpoint their respective impacts on fibroid growth and development. What were the investigators’ findings?
How Diet Affects Fibroid Risk
A 2021 study published in Nutrients examined the potential impact of diet and nutrition on a number of gynecological disorders, including uterine leiomyomas.² The researchers found that some foods showed consistently protective factors against fibroid development, while other foods showed little or inconsistent correlation.
Fruits and vegetables are the foods that demonstrated the most consistent protective effects against fibroids. Apples, citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, and cabbage were notable examples. The researchers also found that quantity or servings played a role; women who had several weekly servings of fruits and vegetables were at decreased risk compared with women who had just one weekly serving.
Green tea, and specifically the green tea flavonoid epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), has shown the potential to decrease both leiomyoma growth and symptom severity while improving health-related quality of life. Conversely, the researchers suggest that heavier alcohol consumption may be associated with an increased risk of fibroid development.
Foods like meat, fish, grains, caffeine, and dairy were found to have inconsistent correlations with fibroids.
How Vitamins and Nutrients Affect Fibroid Risk
For many of these foods, any indication that they may affect leiomyoma development is due to the vitamins and nutrients in them. Different vitamins have varying effects. According to a 2022 study in Nutrients that focused on natural compounds and vitamins as possible factors in fibroid growth and development, the vitamin with the most statistically significant effect on fibroids is vitamin D.³ Vitamin D deficiency was strongly correlated with increased fibroid risk, as it can increase cell stimulation and growth. Vitamins A, E, and C did not show any consistent correlation with leiomyoma development.
While acknowledging more research is needed, the investigators suggested that the dairy and probiotic consumption in yogurt could potentially yield protective effects.
Fruits and vegetables are so highly recommended in part because they contain carotenoids, indole-3-carbinol, and flavonoids like quercetin. A combination of these substances with the aforementioned benefits of vitamin D and EGCG has shown the potential to reduce fibroid symptoms.
1. Uterine fibroids – symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/symptoms-causes/syc-20354288. Updated September 16, 2021. Accessed May 3, 2022.
2. Afrin S, AlAshqar A, El Sabeh M, et al. Diet and Nutrition in Gynecological Disorders: A Focus on Clinical Studies. Nutrients. 2021;13(6):1747. Published 2021 May 21. doi:10.3390/nu13061747
3. Szydłowska I, Nawrocka-Rutkowska J, Brodowska A, Marciniak A, Starczewski A, Szczuko M. Dietary Natural Compounds and Vitamins as Potential Cofactors in Uterine Fibroids Growth and Development. Nutrients. 2022;14(4):734. Published 2022 Feb 9. doi:10.3390/nu14040734