Underweight And Early Menopause - Is there a connection?

Apparently there seems to be a connection between being underweight and hitting menopause early.

While perusing the articles at Washington Post and NYTimes, I came across this study, Adult adiposity and risk of early menopause, in which researchers analyzed data on 78,759 pre-menopausal women who were mostly in their mid-30s, when the study was started.

This study spanned for about 22 years and in that time around 2,804 women reached menopause before the the age of 45, which is considered early. All these women reached menopause naturally and none because of hysterectomy, oophorectomy, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

underweight woman early menopause

Interestingly, it was found that compared with normal-weight women with a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 to 22.4 — those who were underweight with a BMI below 18.5 — were 30 percent more likely to have experienced early menopause.

Overweight women (B.M.I. 25 to 34.9) had a slightly lower risk of early menopause, and there was no significant increased risk in very obese women with a B.M.I. higher than 35.

The chances of early menopause also were greater — by 50 percent — for women who had been underweight at age 18 vs. those whose weight was normal at that age implying that women who were underweight in early or mid-adulthood had elevated risk for early menopause.

While those who had an early menopause have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers they are at a risk of several other health conditions.

Early menopause is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, low bone density leading to osteoporosis, dementia including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, certain cancers and early death.

Additionally, early fertility decline has family planning consequences as women increasingly delay childbearing. [Source]

Genetic factor may be one of the reasons for increased risk of early menopause but certain lifestyle factors, environmental risk factors like pollution, exposure to toxins etc may also play a role.

Personally, I have come across 3-4 women in my locality who had an early (before the age of 45) but natural menopause and coincidentally all of them were mostly lean and underweight, though healthy otherwise.

That's why this particular study intrigued me and I am sort of convinced that indeed low body weight does increase the risk of having an early menopause.

So women with low BMI -- it's better if you discuss the findings of this study and your risk factors with your doctor and more so if you are putting off conception.

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  1. Nilima4:50 PM

    genetic factors like the number of eggs in your ovaries, play a role in influencing the onset of menopause, but the study suggests there are more implications of being underweight, and long-term risks of an eating disorder.

  2. As estrogen levels decrease, women are at greater risk for osteoporosis. Increasing calcium intake is recommended in order to preserve bone health

  3. Preeti5:00 PM

    Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best ways women can decrease the severity and duration of many menopause symptoms.

    Exercising regularly. Exercise improves many different aspects of health, including muscle elasticity, weight management, increased blood flow, and mood stability. At least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week is recommended.

  4. Great post, its a very informative post.thanks for the sharing.

  5. Kamala4:09 PM

    Early menopause can also be the result of an autoimmune disease.


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