In this small but interesting study out of Stanford University, of 68 healthy postmenopausal women at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, it was found that those using estradiol, an FDA-approved bioidentical estrogen, did significantly better on verbal memory tests than women using Conjugated Equine Estrogens (CEE), otherwise known as Premarin or pregnant horse urine extract.
The women were relatively young, ages 49–68, and some were using progestins, some weren’t. All of the women had been using estrogen for at least one year. The women using estradiol also did better on tests of attention, executive function and visual memory.
In the E3N French Cohort of 4,809 elderly women, it was found that those who used hormones had less cognitive (mental function) decline than those who didn’t use hormones, but the details of this finding haven’t been teased out of the data yet. For more than a decade, most women in France on HRT have been using bioidentical hormones.
Numerous studies in the past six years have shown that women using Premarin do significantly worse on cognition tests than those taking no hormones. There appears to be a period of a few months when cognition improves, followed by a long-term decline.
One of the shortcomings of the Stanford study is that it wasn’t large enough to pull out differences between women using progesterone and progestins.
Now if someone would do a cognition study comparing women using transdermal estradiol and progesterone with those using anything else, or nothing, we’d likely have some very significant results.
Vercambre MN et al, “Long-term association of food and nutrient intakes with cognitive and functional decline: a 13-year follow-up study of elderly French women,” Br J Nutr. 2009 Aug;102(3):419-27. Epub 2009 Feb 10.
Wroolie TE et al, “Differences in Verbal Memory Performance in Postmenopausal Women Receiving Hormone Therapy: 17β-Estradiol Versus Conjugated Equine Estrogens,” American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry: September 2011 – Volume 19 – Issue 9 – p 792–802.