(NaturalNews) A large new study from France, published in an American Heart Association journal last spring, shows that bioidentical hormones do not raise the risk of stroke in menopausal women. While it has been well established over the past decade that menopausal women who use synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) such as PremPro have a significantly higher risk of stroke, there has been little safety data for bioidentical hormones. The French E3N research, which is following 100,000 women over time, is the first to show that bioidentical hormone users have the same or lower risk of stroke and blood clots as women not using any hormone replacement. Bioidentical hormones have the same molecular structure as those made by the human body, while synthetic hormones are not found in nature.
Three large population studies have shown that menopausal women who use synthetic hormones have a significantly higher risk of breast cancer, stroke, heart disease and gallbladder disease, including the U.S. Women`s Health Initiative (WHI), the British Million Women Study, and the French E3N study, all published over the past decade. The French E3N study is unique in that it provides valuable safety data for users of bioidentical hormones, most recently on estrogen, progesterone and the risk of stroke and blood clots. The most common kind of hormone replacement therapy used by French women is a combination of estradiol patch or gel, and oral progesterone -- both bioidentical hormones.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death among women in the U.S., and although more men than women have strokes, more women die from them. The WHI study found that users of the hormone replacement drug PremPro had a 41% higher risk of stroke, so investigators of the French E3N study examined the stroke risk factors for bioidentical hormones to find out if there is a difference. PremPro is made from an estrogen-like extract of a pregnant mare`s urine (Premarin) and a synthetic progesterone or progestin called Provera.
In 2005 the French E3N study published research in the International Journal of Cancer showing that women who use bioidentical hormones have the same or lower risk of breast cancer as women who use no hormone replacement. The latest release of information from the French E3N examined the risk of stroke among women using oral (pill) estrogen, transdermal estrogen (patch or gel), different kinds of progestins, and progesterone. Bottom line, estrogen patches and gels are much safer than estrogen pills, and progesterone is safer than any of the progestins. In fact, women using estrogen patches and progesterone (in pill form) had a slightly lower risk of stroke compared to women not using any type of hormone replacement.
A small study recently published in the African Journal of Biotechnology compared endogenous (made in the body) hormone levels in women and men who had an ischemic stroke (blockage of an artery in the brain). The study measured estradiol and progesterone levels in 15 men and 15 women within 12 hours after an ischemic stroke, and compared them to a similar healthy group. The stroke group as a whole had lower progesterone levels than the control group, and a significantly lower progesterone to estrogen ratio.
There is no argument among researchers that stroke risk is increased for women who use oral contraceptives, all of which contain progestins, and for women who use hormone replacement therapies that include progestins and/or high doses of estrogen. Now, women who use bioidentical hormones have some assurance that their risk of stroke and blood clots is not increased.
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Sheikh N, Tavilani H, Rezaie A, Decreased endogenous progesterone and ratio of progesterone to estrogen in stroke ischemia, African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 9(5), pp. 732-734, 1 February, 2010.
Virginia Hopkins is a best-selling author and co-author of books about women's hormones, nutrition, prescription drugs and more, including What Your Dr. May Not Tell You About Menopause with Dr. John Lee, and Prescription Alternatives.