Early Menopause May Be Linked to Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

The age a woman experiences natural menopause is associated with her risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The age a woman experiences natural menopause is associated with her risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Previous research has demonstrated a link between early menopause and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). During menopause, a woman experiences weight gain, decreased estrogen levels, increased visceral fat, and an impaired glucose metabolism. These adverse effects may contribute to a greater risk of type 2 diabetes, which leads to the increased risk of CVD.

A recent study published by Diabetologia evaluated 3639 postmenopausal women from the Rotterdam Study, who self-reported their age at natural menopause. The participants were then divided into categories of premature (<40 years old), early (40-44 years old), normal (45-55 years old), and late menopause (>55 years old). Type 2 diabetes data was collected from medical records of blood glucose measurements at clinical visits.

Of the 3639 postmenopausal women included in the study, 348 developed type 2 diabetes over the median follow-up of 9.2 years. When comparing the association among ages of natural menopause, women with late menopause had statistically significant lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For premature menopause, type 2 diabetes was 3.65 (hazard ratio) times more likely, 2.36 times more likely for early menopause, and 1.62 times for likely for normal menopause, when compared with women who experience late menopause.

The study suggested that early natural menopause may be a marker of premature aging and related to longevity. Therefore, age at natural menopause may be associated with DNA damage repair, which is linked to type 2 diabetes risk.

“Hence, early menopause might be a consequence of accelerated ageing of the soma and might therefore be a very good predictor of general health in later life, including type 2 diabetes risk,” wrote the researchers. “However, when we adjusted for shared genetic factors, our results did not change.”

Despite the lifestyle factors, like smoking and alcohol consumption, that are often linked to the age of menopause, the study did not find an association or influence between the factors and the results. Therefore, the connection between type 2 diabetes development and natural menopause age remains unclear.

“Early onset of natural menopause is an independent marker of type 2 diabetes risk in postmenopausal women,” concluded the study. “Future studies are needed to examine the mechanisms behind this association and explore whether the timing of natural menopause can add value to diabetes prediction and prevention.”