Early menarche can increase the risk of diabetes

Neuherberg, 20.12.2011.
The younger girls are at the onset of menstruation, the greater their risk of developing prediabetes or diabetes in the course of their lives. This is the conclusion reached by scientists of the Helmholtz Zentrum München based on the analysis of data obtained from the KORA cohort. Following the advance online publication of the new risk factor in the specialist journal Diabetologia, the researchers hope that they will be able in future to find better ways to prevent the disease.

Dr. Doris Stöckl, Dr. Christine Meisinger

In future it will be possible to identify women who are at greater risk of developing diabetes on the basis of their age at menarche. Dr. Christine Meisinger, Dr. Doris Stöckl and their colleagues at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have now discovered that the earlier girls experience the onset of menarche, the more likely they are to develop prediabetes or diabetes at some point in their lives. The researchers reached this conclusion after examining 1,503 women aged between 32 and 81 years as part of the KORA F4 Study. The average age at the onset of menarche was 13. In contrast to previous assumptions, the link between age at menarche and diabetes was evident irrespective of the current body mass index (BMI) of the adults participating in the study.

”We hope that it will thus be possible to identify individuals with an increased risk of diabetes in good time and to take preventive measures,” says Doris Stöckl. She and her colleagues are now examining the extent to which the link they have discovered is based on genetic or socio-economic factors. The Helmholtz Zentrum München aims to gain understanding of the mechanisms that trigger widespread diseases and to develop new approaches to their diagnosis, treatment and prevention.”

Further information

More than six million people in Germany suffer from Type 2 diabetes, and the number of unreported cases could be equally high. To date there is no cure for this common disease. Type 2 diabetes is a disorder of glucose metabolism. Characteristically, the body fails to produce enough insulin or cannot use it properly. The mechanisms that trigger the disease have not yet been clarified completely. It is, however, known that diabetes is due to a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. Understanding the mechanisms that cause common diseases and developing new approaches with regard to their diagnosis, treatment and prevention are key objectives of the Helmholtz Zentrum München.

Original publication:
Stöckl, D. et al. (2011). Age at menarche is associated with prediabetes and diabetes in women (aged 32–81 years) from the general population: the KORA F4 Study, Diabetologia, DOI: 10.1007/s00125-011-2410-3
Link to publication

The Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 1,900 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich on a 50-hectare research campus. It is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 17 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 31,000 staff members. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de

The Helmholtz Zentrum München is a partner in the German Center for Diabetes Research (www.dzd-ev.de) and in the Diabetes Competence Network

For more than 20 years, the Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg (KORA) study has been examining the health of thousands of citizens in Augsburg and environs. The aim of the project is to increase understanding of the impact of environmental factors, behavior and genes on human health. The KORA studies focus on matters relating to the development and progression of chronic diseases, in particular myocardial infarction and diabetes. To that end, research is conducted into risk factors arising from lifestyle factors (including smoking, diet and exercise), environmental factors (including air pollution and noise) and genetics. Questions relating to the use and cost of health services are examined from the point of view of health services research. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/kora

Scientific contact:
Dr. med Doris Stöckl, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health  (GmbH), Ingolstädter Landstrasse 1, 85764 Neuherberg – Tel: +49 89-3187-4153