Period Duration and Regularity Study Shows Link to Liver Health
Recent research suggests that women who have prolonged or irregular periods may have an increased risk of liver disease.
The study found that women with irregular or long periods were more likely to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, than those with shorter or more regular menstrual cycles.
NAFLD is a chronic disease caused by the accumulation of fat in the liver. It is not associated with alcohol consumption. However, it is closely associated with diet and weight. NAFLD has quickly become the leading cause of liver disease, affecting approximately 2% of American adults.
The disease can progress to chronic liver disease and heavy scarring, which carries a very high risk of death. Diet and exercise are the current standards of care.
This builds on an existing body of evidence suggesting that the length and regularity of the menstrual cycle can influence women’s health. Studies already exist to show that it can impact type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk.
For the study, researchers looked at data from more than 72,000 women under the age of 40. They found that 28% had long or irregular menstrual cycles and 7% had NAFLD. After four years of follow-up, new cases of NAFLD were diagnosed in 9% of women.
So what can you do? If you have or have had long or irregular menstrual cycles, it is strongly recommended that you attempt to reduce the risk of NAFLD using lifestyle measures. This would involve limiting processed foods and other calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods.
Opting for more unprocessed, plant-based foods, as well as lean proteins, may provide some benefits. Leading an active lifestyle with dedicated time for exercise, at least three times a week, can also help keep things under control.