Menopause is often associated with a central accumulation of body fat. This provokes insulin resistance. The resulting hyperinsulinemia may increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. Long-term studies indicate that menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) reduces insulin resistance. To broaden knowledge of the mechanisms behind the influence of MHT on glucose homeostasis we focused on the direct short-term effects of MHT with oral combined estradiol and drospirenone on glucose and insulin metabolism in healthy postmenopausal women.
This randomized, placebo-controlled study recruited 80 healthy postmenopausal women. Women were randomized to treatment with estradiol 1 mg continuously combined with drospirenone 2 mg or placebo for 6-8 weeks. All participants underwent an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) before and after the treatment period. Glucose, insulin, fructosamine and C-peptide levels were measured in serum before and 30, 60, 90, 120 and 150 min after a 75-gram oral glucose challenge.
After intervention, significantly higher glucose levels at 120 min (p < 0.024) and 150 min (p < 0.030) were observed in the MHT group compared with the placebo group. These glucose levels remained within the normal range. A significantly lower insulin peak serum level (p < 0.040) and a non-significantly smaller area under the curve (AUC) for insulin levels (p = 0.192) was observed in the MHT group at the end of the study period relative to baseline. No significant change in the insulin AUC in the placebo group was observed. There were no significant differences in fructosamine, HOMA-IR and C-peptide levels between the MHT group and the placebo group.
This double-blind randomized study (EC/2008/694) indicates that treating healthy, postmenopausal women with 1 mg estradiol continuously combined with 2 mg drospirenone significantly decreases peak insulin levels and increases peak glucose levels during an OGTT compared to placebo. These glucose levels remained within the normal range.
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