Fatty acid composition of the red blood cell membrane in relation to menopausal status Academic Article uri icon

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  • PURPOSE: Menopausal status effects female anatomical functioning at a variety of system-wide and cellular levels, including cellular membrane composition. This study analyzed a nested case-control ORDET data set of 433 pre and post-menopausal breast cancer controls to examine the effects of menopausal status on the fatty acid composition of the red blood cell membrane.METHODS: ORDET is a prospective cohort study conducted in Italy to investigate the etiologic role of hormones and diet in breast cancer development. The fatty acid composition was measured and analyzed by gas chromotography, comparing retention time with standard measurement. Twenty-two individual fatty acids were measured, recorded, and categorized into four fatty acid groups: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated n-6 (PUFA n-6), and polyunsaturated (PUFA n-3) fatty acids.RESULTS: Post-menopausal women had consistently lower mean values for all four fatty acid categories and all individual fatty acids. Statistically significant mean differences, by menopausal status, were observed for three of the four fatty acid categories: saturated fatty acids (p = 0.006), PUFA n-6 acids (p = 0.001), and PUFA n-3 acids (p = 0.000). The biggest statistically significant differences in mean values among individual fatty acids for each category were observed for Palmitic acid (p = 0.009), Oleic acid (p = 0.040), Linoleic acid (p = 0.000), and Docosahexaenoic acid (p = 0.000). Individual fatty acids were also less highly correlated among post-menopausal women.CONCLUSIONS: There was an observed relationship between menopausal status and the fatty acid composition of the red blood cell membrane that warrants further study. This relationship may contribute to the physiological and psychological changes that occur during and after menopause, and may have far-reaching implications for women's health.


  • Tworek, C
  • Muti, Paola
  • Micheli, A
  • Krogh, V
  • Riboli, E
  • Berrino, F

publication date

  • October 2000