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Can This Cycle Spark Eating Disorder Risk?

by | Jun 10, 2020 | +SCIENCE

Hormonal changes each month, part of the menstrual cycle, can cause women to eat more—a normal, biological occurrence.

This increased food intake causes some women to become much more preoccupied with their body weight and shape, and this intensified obsession can increase the risk of developing eating disorder symptoms, new research shows.

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

(Credit: Michigan State)

(Credit: Michigan State)

Study author Kelly Klump, a professor at Michigan State University, says the changes in food intake are all part of a natural, evolutionary process. Each month, women’s bodies undergo a menstrual cycle marked by changes in the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

These monthly fluctuations in hormones cause women to increase the amount of food they eat. These changes can also cause emotional eating, which is the tendency to over-consume food 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 says.

“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.”

In a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Klump and co-lead author Britny Hildebrandt, a Michigan State graduate student, say 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.

The National Institute of Mental Health supported the work. Researchers from Michigan State, Ohio University; Florida State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of Virginia contributed to the work.


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Editors Note:

This article first appeared on Futurity and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.




A proud graduate of Michigan State, Kim has more than 25 years of experience in strategic public relations and media relations. She has held public relations and communications management positions at the College for Creative Studies, Thomson Gale, The Stroh Brewery Company, and the former NBD Bank. Kim is accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America and earned a master of science in administration, emphasis in communications management, from Central Michigan University. As part of the media communications team, Kim develops and implements public relations programs to promote MSU’s outstanding research.