Early menopause more likely in women who have ever been underweight

03 Nov 2017

Women who have been underweight in early or mid-adulthood are more likely to experience early menopause, a study has found. Premature menopause is linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis.

The study, carried out by scientists at the University of Massachusetts, analysed data from 78,000 women who were tracked over a period of 22 years.

Women with a body mass index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 22.4 were considered to be a ‘normal’ weight, while women with a BMI of 18.5 or lower were classed as underweight.

Comparisons between these two groups found that the women who fell into the underweight category had a significantly higher risk of early menopause; on average, underweight women were 30% more likely to experience menopause before the age of 45.

Moreover, the risk was significantly higher in women who were underweight at age 35, with a 59 per cent greater likelihood of premature menopause, and women with a BMI of less than 17.5 having a 50 per cent greater risk.

Julia Thomson, Nurse Manager at the National Osteoporosis Society, said: “Early menopause is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures, as low levels of the sex hormone oestrogen causes bone density to decrease. Women may not fully appreciate the risk posed to their bone health through excessive dieting and weight loss. This study reiterates the need for women to maintain a healthy weight throughout life.”

If you think you may be at risk of osteoporosis, take our Stop At One quiz to find out. For more information about healthy living for strong bones, see our leaflet .


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