Eating More During Menstrual Cycle Hikes Eating Disorder Risk

A new study links the biological stimulus that causes women to eat more during their menstrual cycle to an increased risk of developing eating disorder symptoms.

Michigan State University Foundation Professor Dr. Kelly Klump found monthly hormonal changes and commensurate increased food intake causes some women to become much more preoccupied with their body weight and shape.

In turn, this intensified obsession can increase the risk of developing eating disorder symptoms.

The challenge is that women are biologically wired to increase their food intake during their monthly cycle in preparation for pregnancy — it’s supposed to happen.

Klump said the changes in food intake are all part of a natural, evolutionary process. Each month, the female body undergoes a menstrual cycle marked by changes in the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Monthly fluctuations in hormones cause women to increase the amount of food they eat and also causes emotional eating, which is the tendency to overeat in response to negative emotions.

“In our culture, we tend to view any increased eating by a woman as a negative thing, even when that gain is biologically and evolutionarily driven,” Klump said.

“This is a potentially dangerous chain of events that could lead to serious and life threatening eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. This can be especially problematic during the holidays.”

Study findings have been published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Klump and co-lead author Britny Hildebrandt said future work in this area will try to determine what other factors, in addition to emotional eating, drive pathological eating disorder symptoms in women across reproductive and hormonal stages.

Source: Michigan State University