The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is increased in women who go through late menopause, US research has found.
The data of 124,000 women discovered a 12 per cent increased risk in women who went through the menopause after the age of 55, compared to those whose fertility came to an end in their mid-40s.
It is the first time a link between type 2 diabetes and late menopause has been found.
The study also suggested women who go through the menopause early have a 25 per cent higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes, although this is not the first time research has found this.
Levels of the hormone oestrogen decrease after menopause, which has been previously been linked to higher body fat, appetite, slower metabolism and higher blood sugar. This might explain why there is an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The average age of reaching the menopause in the UK – which marks the end of the women’s monthly cycle and means they can no longer conceive naturally – is 51.
Dr Erin LeBlanc, from the Kaiser Permanente Centre for Health Research in the US, said: “Our study suggests the optimal window for menopause and diabetes risk is between the ages of 45 and 55.
“Women who start menopause before or after that window should be aware that they are at higher risk and should be especially vigilant about reducing obesity, eating a healthy diet and exercising. These lifestyle changes will help to reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes.”
The study also found that women with reproductive-period durations of less than 30 years had a 37 per cent higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes, compared with women whose reproductive durations were somewhere in the middle (36 to 40 years).
Meanwhile, women who had long reproductive cycles of over 45 years had a 23 per cent increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The women who participated in the trial were aged between 50 and 79 years and were studied for 12 years. They were asked to complete health questionnaires about their reproductive history and their health.
The findings were published in the Menopause journal.
The study formed part of the Women’s Health Initiative, a large US investigation of postmenopausal women focusing on the prevention of heart disease, bone fractures, and breast and bowel cancer.

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