Those who start the menopause before the age of 40 might be a risk of becoming diabetic

UNDERGOING the menopause early in life puts women at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, research suggests.

Those who start the menopause before the age of 40 are almost four times more likely to develop the condition than women who undergo the change after the age of 55, scientists discovered.

The research, led by Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, suggests oestrogen hormones protect the body against diabetes.

The menopause, which begins on average at the age of 51, happens when the body stops naturally producing oestrogen and other sex hormones. But about one in ten women in Britain start the menopause before the age of 45, one in 100 before 40, and one in 1,000 before 30.

The researchers tracked more than 3,600 postmenopausal women, examining them for a decade. During that time 348 developed type 2 diabetes.

The researchers, whose results are published in the Diabetologia medical journal, found that for every advancing year in age that a woman began the menopause, her chance of developing type 2 diabetes fell by 4 per cent. Compared with women who experienced a late menopause – at the age of 55 or later – those who started the menopause before 40 were 3.7 times more likely to develop diabetes.

Those who began the menopause between 40 and 44 were 2.4 times more likely to develop diabetes, and those who experienced it between 45 and 55 were 1.6 times more likely to get the condition.

Previous research by the team found that women who reach the menopause early are also at greater risk of heart disease. They think this is because women who reach the menopause later are exposed to oestrogen for longer, and so have more years of protection against heart disease. They said this might also apply to diabetes. But there is a chance an early menopause might indicate a deeper problem – a defective DNA repair system – which might also lead to diabetes.

The authors wrote: ‘Our findings might suggest that the risk of diabetes related to menopause is already there before menopause begins.

‘This could explain why other risk factors for diabetes do not explain the link between menopause and type 2 diabetes – early menopause is an independent marker for diabetes, indicating that something else is the driving force, possibly defective DNA repair and maintenance.’

© Daily Mail