Researchers say women who are underweight in early or mid-adulthood may be at increased risk of early menopause.

Being a skinny teenager increases a woman’s risk of having an early menopause, new research suggests.

The same association was found for women who are underweight in their mid-30s.

In addition, underweight women who lost nine kilograms or more on at least three occasions between the ages of 18 and 30 doubled their chances of ending reproductive life prematurely, the study found.

Early menopause is defined as naturally ceasing to have periods before the age of 45.

Researchers analysed data from 78,759 pre-menopausal women aged 25 to 42 who joined the US Nurses’ Health Study II in 1989. The study was one of a series of major investigations into the causes of chronic disease in women.

Lead scientist Dr Kathleen Szegda, from the University of Massachusetts, said: “Our findings suggest that women who are underweight in early or mid-adulthood may be at increased risk for early menopause.

“Up to 10 per cent of women experience early menopause and it is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions such as cognitive decline, osteoporosis and premature death, so these findings have important implications for women and their doctors.

“Underweight women may want to consider discussing the potential implications of these findings with their doctors.”

Being underweight was defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18.5.

The findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Human Reproduction.

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