Study shows estrogen levels are unrelated to cognition in postmenopausal women

December 10, 2013

A new study examines the cognitive affects of sex hormones on postmenopausal women.

A new study shows that levels of estrogen in postmenopausal women- no matter if they have recently gone through menopause or have been postmenopausal for more than 10 years- do not show a significant affect on cognitive ability. However, in younger postmenopausal women, higher progesterone levels were found to be positively related to better memory and global cognition.

“Progesterone findings were not predicted ahead of time and need to be replicated before clinical implications are considered,” said the study’s lead author, Stanford University School of Medicine researcher Victor Henderson in an email to Contemporary OB/GYN.

The study analyzed data from 643 healthy postmenopausal women between 41 and 84 years old who were not on hormone therapy.

After being divided into two groups- those who had been postmenopausal for fewer than six years (early group), and those who had been postmenopausal for more than 10 years (late group)- the women were assessed by the researchers for overall cognition, memory and depression. The women were recruited for the ELITE clinical trial of estradiol therapy, and the study’s analysis was based on blood levels obtained at the beginning of the trial, Henderson said.

The researchers found that serum estradiol and serum estrone were unrelated to memory performance in the groups of women, Henderson said. The study also found no relation between serum estradiol and serum estrone and overall cognition or executive functions.

“… Primary findings imply that women should not start estrogen-containing hormone therapy with the intention of improving memory,” Henderson stated in an email to Contemporary OB/GYN. “On the other hand, women considering hormone therapy for other reasons need not be dissuaded because of concerns of adverse effects on memory or global cognition.”

The study and hypothesis was focused on memory, not hormone therapy, Henderson said.

“In secondary analyses, we did observe that estradiol was positively associated with naming skills in the early group, and that progesterone levels were positively related to memory and global cognition, also in the early group,” Henderson said.

 

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