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HRT: A Boost for Libido, But Not Memory
Date:9/24/2007

Study of younger menopausal women found no difference in cognition between hormones and placebo

MONDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Giving hormone therapy to women in the first few years after menopause doesn't improve memory, although it does seem to increase sexual interest, a new study found.

The study looked specifically at combined hormone therapy, meaning estrogen plus progesterone, suggesting that progesterone could be the active factor.

"It's saying the progesterone is good for sexuality but probably not so good for cognition," said Pauline Maki, lead author of the study and associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "But that's not to say that other progestins wouldn't be good for cognition."

The study was funded by Wyeth, which makes the hormone formulation Prempro. The results are published in the Sept. 25 issue of the journal Neurology.

Experts have long suspected that the natural hormonal changes associated with menopause may contribute to memory problems.

Several trials have reported that estrogen therapy might help alleviate these problems in younger postmenopausal women. And trials in older women -- 65 and over -- found negative or neutral effects, but these trials looked at combined estrogen and progesterone therapy.

Only one study has looked at combined hormone therapy on women under the age of 65. It found a beneficial effect on memory, but in a small sample of women.

The landmark Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Memory Study, released in 2004, found that estrogen on its own did not protect women from normal declines in cognitive function.

"There are a number of studies suggesting that estrogen alone improves memory functioning in women who are surgically menopausal," Maki said. "The question is what does estrogen plus progesterone do for women who are not surgically menopausal?"


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