After more than a decade of studying over 3,000 women, researchers have found that dietary choices — particularly potassium and iron intake, can have a strong effect on how women experience premenstrual syndrome. Women who consumed more iron, either through food or supplements, were less likely to suffer from PMS, while those who ate a high level of potassium experienced worse PMS than those who did not.
Published in the The American Journal of Epidemiology, the University of Massachusetts study used 1,057 women with PMS and 1,968 control subjects. Using questionnaires, researchers determined the women's nutrient intake and then established cases of PMS by clinical diagnosis. The scientists then adjusted the women's nutrient intake in various ways to see how it changed how the subjects experienced PMS.
What they discovered was that women in the highest 20% for iron intake were approximately 40% less likely to suffer PMS as those in the lowest 20% for iron intake. With potassium on the other hand, those in the highest 20%, compared to those in the bottom 20%, had a 46% increase in the likelihood that they would suffer from PMS. Intake of magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper or sodium had no risk.
If you want to avoid PMS, the study's senior author Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson does not recommend intentionally taking in more iron or less potassium (too much or too little of either can be physically harmful), but instead doing your best to create a well-rounded diet.
"Eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods," Bertone-Johnson remarked, "is a good way to ensure that women are consuming important vitamins and minerals."