Researchers discover link between irregular menstrual cycle and type 2 diabetes

Some medical experts believe that type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease in many cases. One key to addressing risk factors before a person develops the condition is to recognize the signs that he or she may be likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

According to a recent study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, irregular periods during adolescence may be one of these risk factors.

The researchers explained that some physicians or parents may disregard irregular menstrual cycles as a sign of coexisting medical conditions. However, although there is no clear cause and effect between this type of problem and obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the investigators warned that their study's results show a connection that should not be ignored.

The investigation involved 370 girls starting at the age of 14. One time each year, the participants were asked to report on whether they had experienced irregular menstrual cycles, and they were also tested for levels of sex hormones, blood glucose and insulin.

The study's results showed that subjects who reported the most instances of irregular periods were, on average, severely obese, compared to those who experienced this problem the least and were only slightly overweight. Moreover, reports of abnormal periods coincided with high blood sugar and insulin levels by the time the participants were 25.

The researchers hypothesized that one reason for this connection may be that irregular periods are a sign that the ovaries are responding to changes in metabolism.

"These relationships which we see so clearly in adolescence and see prospectively into young adulthood are the same relationships which two to three decades later spell out in the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes," lead researcher Charles Glueck told Reuters Health.

Individuals who experience erratic menstrual cycles may consider consulting their physician on healthy lifestyle changes that may help prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes.