Low levels of the hormone estrogen are not to blame for mood swings and poor memory after menopause, a new study suggests.
Based on this finding, the researchers believe there’s no reason to use hormone replacement therapy to boost mental well-being after periods stop.
Variations in the hormonal milieu after menopause may influence neural processes concerned with cognition, cognitive aging, and mood, but findings are inconsistent. In particular, cognitive effects of estradiol may vary with time since menopause, but this prediction has not been assessed directly using serum hormone concentrations. We studied 643 healthy postmenopausal women not using hormone therapy who were recruited into early (-6 y after menopause) and late (10+ y after menopause) groups. Women were administered a comprehensive neuropsychological battery and assessed with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. They provided serum for free estradiol, estrone, progesterone, free testosterone, and sex hormone binding globulin measurements. Cognitive outcomes were standardized composite measures of verbal episodic memory, executive functions, and global cognition. Covariate-adjusted linear regression analyses were conducted for each hormone separately and after adjustment for other hormone levels. Endogenous sex steroid levels were unassociated with cognitive composites, but sex hormone binding globulin was positively associated with verbal memory. Results for early and late groups did not differ significantly, although progesterone concentrations were significantly positively associated with verbal memory and global cognition in early group women. Hormone concentrations were not significantly related to mood. Results fail to support the hypothesis that temporal proximity to menopause modifies the relation between endogenous serum levels of estradiol and verbal memory, executive functions, or global cognition. Physiological variations in endogenous postmenopausal levels of sex steroid hormones are not substantially related to these aspects of cognition or mood; positive associations for progesterone and sex hormone binding globulin merit additional study.
Estrogen Won’t Make Women Sharper After Menopause, Study Finds, healthday, 25 Nov 2013
Supporting Information, Henderson et al. 10.1073/pnas.1312353110