Women's Health Watch

Author:

Childhood Abuse Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia

The results of a study published in the May 2011 issue of the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma indicate that childhood physical abuse is associated with significantly elevated rates of functional somatic syndromes such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivities among women.

According to Esme Fuller-Thomson, PhD, of the University of Toronto, “Women who reported they had been physically abused as children have twice the odds of chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivities, and 65% higher odds of fibromyalgia. These findings persisted even after controlling for potentially confounding factors such as other adverse childhood experiences, age, race, mental health, and adult socioeconomic status.”

The study looked at a subsample of the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey involving 7342 women. Of those, 10% reported being physically abused as children, 1.3% reported that they had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, 2.5% were diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and 2.7% were diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivities.

This research not only suggests a link between childhood physical abuse and functional somatic syndromes, but also explores the contribution of confounding psychosocial factors such as other childhood adversities, adult health behaviors, and mental health, according to Joanne Sulman, MSW, RSW, a coauthor on the study.

“Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the research are the questions it raises, such as the mechanisms that link physical abuse to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivities,” Sulman stated. PT

Menopause Age Often Runs in the Family

Although the age at which a woman reaches menopause is not entirely hereditary, it does appear to depend largely on when her relatives went through it.

A study published ahead of print on April 18, 2011, in the journal Menopause found that women whose mothers and sisters went through menopause early are likely to do the same. However, environmental factors can also play a key role in when it occurs, according to lead investigator Danielle Morris of the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom.

“Genes have an important effect on age at menopause, but lifestyle also matters, and so women can affect their age at menopause by their behaviors,” she said.

For example, women who smoke tend to undergo menopause roughly 1 to 2 years earlier than former or nonsmokers, and women who haven’t given birth tend to experience menopause earlier than those who have.

In the study, Morris and her team compared women who were related using a sample of the large-scale UK Breakthrough Generations Study. Among those participants, the team selected 2060 women between the ages of 31 and 90 who had a firstdegree relative who was also taking part in the study.

They found that early and late menopause appeared to run in families, as did usual-age menopause. Specifically, women whose sisters and mothers underwent menopause at a typical age were between 2 and 7 times more likely to do the same. 

Calcium Supplements May Do More Harm than Good

For women who take calcium supplements to prevent bone loss, the risks may outweigh the benefits, according to findings published in the April 2011 issue of BMJ

“There is a lack of consensus at the present time as to what recommendations should be regarding the use of calcium supplements,” said study senior author Ian Reid, MD, professor of medicine and endocrinology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “Our own recommendation is to critically review the use of calcium supplements, since the data in this paper suggests that they do more harm than good.” 

Previous analysis by the same group of researchers had uncovered a 27% to 31% higher risk of heart attack in women taking calcium without vitamin D.

In this study, the authors examined data from 16,718 participants in the government-funded Women’s Health Initiative who had not been taking calcium supplements before beginning the trial. They found that women who were randomized to take calcium and vitamin D as part of the study protocol had a modest 13% to 22% higher risk of cardiovascular events, whereas women in the control arm had no change in risk.

After factoring in data from 13 other unpublished studies involving nearly 30,000 women, researchers calculated that the increased risk for heart attack in women taking calcium supplements was 25% to 30%, and the increased risk for stroke was 15% to 20%.

Providers, therefore, should “encourage people to obtain their calcium from diet rather than from supplements, since food calcium has not been shown to carry this increased risk of heart disease,” said Dr. Reid. 


Fast Fact: The ratio of women to men with multiple sclerosis is 2:1.