BackgroundDietary phytoestrogens may alter hormonal activity in childhood. Flavonols and lignans are the most prevalent phytoestrogens in the Western diet. We examined whether higher intake of flavonols and lignans was associated with later age at menarche in a prospective study of young girls.MethodsIn all, 1,044 girls aged 6-8 years (mean 7.3 years) with two to four 24-h dietary recalls during their baseline year were followed up for 11 years until the attainment of menarche in the Breast Cancer and Environment Research Project (BCERP). Associations of age at menarche with quintiles of phytoestrogens were assessed using hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) from Cox proportional hazards models, controlling for body mass index and other covariates.ResultsThe highest quintile of flavonol intake was associated with a later age at menarche, compared with the lowest quintile (adjusted HR: 0.80, 95% CI: (0.66-1.00). For lignans, there was a later age in overweight girls (HR: 0.56, 95% CI=0.40-0.80).ConclusionThese dietary bioactives may reflect a healthy diet, and foods high in phytoestrogens may influence the timing of menarche.