Recent research conducted in the United States and published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Nutrition Prevention & Health reveals a significant correlation between early menstruation and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes during middle age. Specifically, this study highlights that menstruation beginning before 13 years of age markedly raises this risk.
In examining the data of over 17,000 women, aged 20 to 65, the study observed a particularly strong link between having first periods before the age of 10 and an elevated risk of experiencing a stroke before 65 years, particularly in individuals with diabetes.
The study, led by researchers from Tulane University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, acknowledges its observational nature and therefore does not conclusively determine the exact causes of these correlations. However, it suggests that an early first menstrual cycle might signal an increased likelihood of cardiometabolic diseases in women.
Participants in this research were drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2018. They were asked to specify the age at their first menstrual cycle. Among these women, approximately 10%, equivalent to 1,773 participants, reported having type 2 diabetes. Additionally, 11.5% of these diabetic women, or 203 individuals, also reported cardiovascular diseases.
The researchers quantified the risk increase for type 2 diabetes associated with early menstruation. They found a 32% increase in risk for those who began menstruating at 10 years or younger, 14% for those at age 11, and 29% for those at age 12. Furthermore, beginning menstruation before age 10 was associated with more than a doubled stroke risk among women under 65 with diabetes.
The study proposes that prolonged exposure to estrogen, due to early menstruation, which is linked to higher estrogen levels, could be a contributing factor. Additionally, weight was identified as a significant influencing element. Upon adjusting for weight, the connection between early menstruation and stroke risk slightly reduced, yet remained notable.
The findings suggest that the age of a woman’s first period could be considered in early-life strategies to prevent diabetes and manage its complications. These insights contribute to a broader understanding of cardiometabolic risks, especially in women, who have traditionally been underrepresented in this research field. Sumantra Ray, Executive Director of the NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition & Health, underscores the importance of these findings and calls for more intervention-focused studies to prevent cardiometabolic diseases in diverse groups of women who experience early menstruation.