Metabolic disorders like diabetes linked to female reproductive factors

Illustration of group of women

February 6, 2024—Certain female reproductive characteristics may be risk factors for developing metabolic disorders like diabetes later in life, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published on January 26 in Cell Metabolism. Lead author was Amy Nichols, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition. Other co-authors included Jorge Chavarro, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, and Emily Oken, professor in the Department of Nutrition.

To learn more about the underpinnings of metabolic disorders in women, primarily diabetes and high cholesterol, the researchers examined existing evidence linking female reproductive traits to chronic metabolic health and disease. They found that reproductive traits—including early menstruation, an irregular menstrual cycle, polycystic ovary syndrome, high weight gain during pregnancy, abnormal blood sugar and lipid levels during pregnancy, and the timing and severity of menopause symptoms—can signal a patient’s heightened risk for poor metabolic health in later adulthood.

The researchers noted that further research is needed to fully understand the connections between reproductive factors and metabolic disorders. In the meantime, however, Nichols said in a January 29 article in Medical Daily that the findings indicate that “screening for reproductive risk factors across the life course may be an initial step to aid prevention or treatment of chronic metabolic diseases.”

Read the Medical Daily article: Metabolic Dysfunction In Women: Study Identifies Reproductive Factors That Raise Risk Of Diabetes, High Cholesterol

Image: iStock/Natalia Kirienko