Cognitive decline has been widely reported in women during the menopause transition. Women often complain about being more forgetful during this phase of life, so a new study presented at The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) aimed to find the association between menopause and cognitive decline.
The study looked to identify whether mitochondrial function may be a determinant of cognition during early post-menopause. Mitochondria, often referred to as the powerhouses of the cell, are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function.
Many physicians focus on mitochondrial health for weight loss and improved health in older adults, but the focus is now shifting to the effects it could have on cognitive function. As estrogen has been found to protect the mitochondria in certain cells, a discussion on the impact of lack of estrogen during the menopause phase should be addressed.
Possible Link with Singular Mitochondrial
Previous studies have suggested a possible link between singular mitochondrial biomarkers and cognitive function. Researchers believe that a decline in estrogen changes the efficiency of energy production during the menopause transition. Therefore, inefficient energy production may be related to declines in cognition.
In this new study, researchers examined the association between a wider variety of mitochondrial biomarkers and cognitive test performance in a larger sample of postmenopausal women. Researchers considered other factors that can influence cognition, including age, education, race, and body mass index.
A total of 110 participants were evaluated for the study, which helped researchers conclude that, in postmenopausal women, markers of mitochondrial function were associated with cognitive performance on measures of verbal learning, verbal memory, organizational strategies that support verbal learning and memory, verbal fluency, and spatial ability. Efficient mitochondrial function was most consistently associated with the use of executive, prefrontal-dependent strategies.
Researchers were able to confirm that women with more efficient energy production had better overall cognitive performance.
The lead author of the study Rachel Schroeder said, “Interestingly, we also found indications of compensatory bioenergetic shifts that might yield less-efficient energy production but might be important to sustaining cognition as women age. These findings as a whole underscore the importance of bioenergetic processes to women’s cognitive health during the post-menopause.”
Additional research is needed to gain insights into the possible role of changes in mitochondrial function and how it reduces cognitive performance across the menopause transition. With more research comes more understanding of the roles that mitochondria play during pre-menopause to perimenopause to post-menopause, which could help predict future cognitive decline. Further studies along this line could also help to create treatment options for women who experience cognitive decline during and after menopause.