A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D may lower the risk of developing premenstrual syndrome (PMS), according to a new study. While most women may experience mild emotional or physical premenstrual symptoms, as many as eight to 20% 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.

Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson, ScD, of the University of Massachusetts, and colleagues 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. Their intake of calcium and vitamin D from diet and/or supplements was calculated from food frequency questionnaires.

“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.”

JAMA and Archives Journals, Jun 13, 2005