Women experience a variety of symptoms during their menstrual cycles. Bloating, cramping, anger, fatigue, depression, and migraines are just some of the things many women must cope with each month during their childbearing years. Women commonly report having cravings for salty or sweet foods during and before their menstrual cycles. Eating for reasons other than to satisfy hunger could be indicative of underlying mental health issues. Much attention has been given to eating issues in women with anxiety, depression, body image issues, and other problems, but less has been focused on emotional eating. Taken a step further, little research has been conducted on the relationship between emotional eating during the menstrual cycle. To provide information on how hormonal changes can affect emotional eating, Kelly L. Klump of Michigan State University’s Department of Psychology recently led a study that assessed the eating patterns and hormonal states of 196 women over the course of 45 days.
Klump evaluated the saliva of participants to determine their levels of progesterone and estradiol and how they interacted to influence cravings. She found that fluctuations in the hormones directly correlated to increases in emotional eating. Specifically, the women reported more emotional eating when their levels of progesterone and estradiol were the highest. Klump also considered mood and body mass index and found that neither factor affected the results. “These findings are significant in suggesting potential causal associations between hormonal changes across the reproductive cycle and emotional eating,” she said. Klump added that more research is needed, especially with respect to exploring these links in additional human and animal studies. However, the results of this study could provide valuable insight into variables that could affect the eating behaviors of people diagnosed with binge eating issues, and might help clinicians design treatment plans with hormonal fluctuations in mind.
Klump, K. L., Keel, P. K., Racine, S. E., Burt, A. S., Neale, M., Sisk, C. L., Boker, S., Hu, J. Y. (2012). The interactive effects of estrogen and progesterone on changes in emotional eating across the menstrual cycle. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029524
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