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Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Jan;73(1):7-12.

Cognitive dietary restraint is associated with higher urinary cortisol excretion in healthy premenopausal women.

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Division of Food, Nutrition and Health, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, and the Division of Endocrinology, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.



Cognitive dietary restraint, assessed by the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire restraint subscale, is associated with subclinical menstrual cycle disturbances. This association may be mediated by stress-activated cortisol release.


We assessed whether 24-h urinary cortisol excretion differs between women with high and low restraint scores.


Participants (aged 21.6+/-2.5 y; n = 62) with normal-length menstrual cycles and high (n = 33) or low (n = 29) restraint scores completed a questionnaire describing weight history, dietary practices, and exercise. Cortisol, calcium, and creatinine were measured in urine collected over 24 h on a day when all food and beverages were provided and measured. Previously, 3-d food records and anthropometric measurements were obtained.


Age, height, weight, body mass index, and length of menstrual cycle were similar between groups. The reported amount of exercise was higher (3.4+/-1.7 compared with 2.2+/-1.8 h/wk; P<0.05) and energy intakes (assessed from 3-d and 24-h food records) were lower in the high- than in the low-restraint group. Ratios of urinary cortisol (nmol) to creatinine (mmol) were higher in the high-restraint than in the low-restraint group (42.9+/-12.9 compared with 36.3+/-8.9; P<0.05), whereas ratios of urinary calcium (mmol) to creatinine were lower (0.3+/-0.1 compared with 0.4+/-0.2; P<0.05) in the high-restraint group. Urinary cortisol was not associated with exercise, nutrient intakes, or anthropometric measurements.


High dietary restraint scores are associated with urinary cortisol, a biological marker of stress, and high cortisol excretion may affect bone health. Our results suggest that further research is warranted to clarify these associations and to determine whether they persist over time.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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