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Being underweight increases chances of early menopause

Study involving almost 80,000 women finds that a BMI of under 18 increases the risk of early menopause by 30%

Study involving almost 80,000 women finds that a BMI of under 18 increases the risk of early menopause by 30%


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Underweight women are at greater risk of experiencing an early menopause than those of normal weight, scientists say.

A team from the University of Massachusetts gathered data including body mass index (BMI), weight distribution and weight change from 78,759 premenopausal women aged 25-42 who took part in the US Nurses’ Health Study II in 1989.

The participants were followed up every two years until 2011, by which time 2,804 had reported early natural menopause, with younger than 45 considered early.

Studies needed

They found women who were underweight at any age and with a BMI of less than 18 had a 30% increased risk of early menopause, compared with normal weight women.

Women who were underweight aged 18 with a BMI of less than 18 had a 50% higher risk.

Those with a BMI of less than 18 at the age of 35 had a 59% increased risk.

Lead author Kathleen Szegda said: ‘More research is needed to understand how being underweight increases the risk.’


Szegda K et al (2017) Adult adiposity and risk of early menopause. Human Reproduction journal. doi:10.1093/humrep/dex304

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