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Hum Reprod. 2010 Sep;25(9):2328-39. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deq172. Epub 2010 Jul 6.

Estrogen and progesterone exposure is reduced in response to energy deficiency in women aged 25-40 years.

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Department of Kinesiology, Women's Health and Exercise Laboratories, Penn State University, Noll Laboratory, University Park, PA 16802, USA.



Alterations in circulating steroids are believed to be important mediators of the impact that diet and exercise have on breast cancer risk and changes in bone density. This study aimed to test the hypothesis that moderate exercise training combined with caloric restriction would produce significant menstrual disturbances and alterations in ovarian steroids in premenopausal women.


Sedentary premenopausal women (25-40 years; body mass index: 23.6 +/- 0.6 kg/m(2)) assigned to either a light conditioning (LC, n = 9) or an exercise combined with caloric restriction group (EX + CR, n = 24) were studied for one screening, one baseline and four intervention periods equivalent to the length of subjects' menstrual cycles. Exercise consisted of supervised training sessions, i.e. two LC or four EX + CR times per week, 30-60 min at a moderate intensity. The EX + CR group was prescribed a diet representing a caloric restriction of 20-35% below baseline energy requirements, whereas the LC group remained eucaloric. Ovarian steroid exposure was determined with daily urinary estrone-1- and pregnanediol glucuronides (E1G and PdG, respectively) and mid-cycle urinary LH measures. Fitness, body composition, and serum sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and serum estradiol (E2) were assessed repeatedly.


The intervention produced significant increases in VO(2) max and decreases in both body weight (-3.7 +/- 0.5 kg; ranged from -8.8 to +1.8 kg) and percent body fat (-4.5 +/- 0.7%; ranged from -12 to +0.3%), which were attributable primarily to changes in the EX + CR subjects (time x group; P < 0.05). Serum E2 and urinary E1G and PdG concentrations declined significantly across the intervention period (time; P < 0.05), whereas SHBG increased transiently (time; P < 0.05) in the EX + CR subjects, with no significant changes observed in the LC group. The decrease in E1G area under the curve was significantly related to the daily energy deficit (R =0.61; P = 0.003), not the amount of weight lost. There was no significant impact of the intervention on menstrual cyclicity or the incidence of menstrual disturbances in either group.


A moderate aerobic exercise training program combined with modest weight loss in accordance with recommended guidelines produces significant reductions in ovarian steroid exposure without disrupting menstrual cyclicity in premenopausal women aged 25-40 years. Exposure to a daily energy deficit is a stronger predictor of the decline in estrogen exposure than decreases in body weight.

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