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The sex hormone estradiol protects the female brain in the middle of life

21.06.2019 16:00

The sex hormone estradiol protects the female brain in the middle of life

How do sex hormones and body weight affect emotional and cognitive well-being? Researchers Julia Sacher and Rachel Zsido and her team have found that hormone estradiol plays a key role in maintaining a mesh network structurally untouched and maintaining a healthy memory, especially in the Middle Ages. Data were analyzed by 974 participants from the large population study of the Leipzig Research Center for Civilization (LIFE).

Recent studies have shown that increased visceral fat – that is, body fat surrounding a number of important internal organs, such as the liver, pancreas and intestines – carries the risk of cognitive impairment later in life. "Our goal was to investigate whether excess body fat is associated with a decrease in structural network and memory performance in our brain during his lifetime, and we also wanted to find out whether this interaction would be affected by estradiol," says author Rachel Zsido,

Estradiol is a hormone derived from cholesterol and the strongest of three naturally-produced estrogens. It is the most important hormone in the female body and has many incredible functions – but most importantly, contributes to the maintenance of the female reproductive system. Men also produce estradiol, albeit in much smaller quantities. In both sexes, estradiol is also produced by fatty tissue, the brain and the blood vessel walls. It also has vasodilating and antioxidant properties. Thus, estradiol can help maintain myelinic architecture – and thus the membranes that protect our nerves.

Although visceral fat and estradiol seem to play the opposite role in the process of healthy brain aging, it remains unclear how and when they interact with the brain structure of others. To solve this puzzle, Jessica and her colleagues investigated a large collection of healthy adults between the ages of 20 and 80, 501 men and 473 women from the LIFE study. "We have studied the brain structure of examinees and body fat in images with magnetic resonance, memory levels and estradiol in the blood, and our results show that increased organic fat can negatively affect aging in brain and women networks. We also found that men used this organic fat earlier , while women are affected, especially in the middle of life, "explains the scientist.

Recognizing hormones in recognizing the risk of dementia or depression

"Decreasing estradiol at this stage of life accelerates the normal aging process, but it appears that estradiol protects female brains from structural damage of gray matter over the middle years," adds Julia Sacher, who explores with her research group. How hormonal changes affect mood, emotional well-being, and knowledge. "We looked at the subgroup of women between 35 and 55 and found that low levels of estradiol were associated with weaker memory in the Middle Ages of Life, including the age range in which menopausal changes occur." which is initially characterized by sudden changes in estradiol and finally stopping the reproductive phase, therefore the stage before menopause provides an important window of opportunity to prevent accelerated aging of the brain and development of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia or depression in women. .

Another joint study conducted by Julia Sacher and Steffi Riedel-Heller from the Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational Health and Public Health (ISAP) also showed a key interaction between unfavorable metabolic states and another important sex hormone testosterone. The team found that elevated testosterone levels and body weight changes affect the susceptibility to depression in women before and after menopause transition. "Together, the results of both studies emphasize the need for gender-specific differences and sex hormones even more to be considered when considering the risk of neurodegenerative diseases," concludes Julia Sacher. This is especially important in the middle of life, as this transition phase gives women a special opportunity for prevention.

Scientific Contact:

PD Dr. Julia Sacher
Head of the Minerva Research Group, officer for equal opportunities
Phone: +49 341 9940-2409

Rachel Zsido
PhD student, Ph.D.

Original Issues:

JAMA Network Open (2019): "Combining estradiol and visceral fat with structural brain networks and cognitive health: access to the life span"

Doi: 10,1001 / jamanetworkopen.2019.6126

Additional information:

Characteristics of this press release:

Nutrition / Health / Care, Medicine
Research results, research projects