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Int J Eat Disord. 2015 Jul;48(5):477-86. doi: 10.1002/eat.22326. Epub 2014 Jun 26.

The effects of ovarian hormones and emotional eating on changes in weight preoccupation across the menstrual cycle.

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Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida.
Departments of Psychiatry, Human Genetics, and Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia.
Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Neuroscience Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.



Previous research has shown that fluctuations in ovarian hormones (i.e., estradiol and progesterone) predict the changes in binge eating and emotional eating across the menstrual cycle. However, the extent to which other eating disorder symptoms fluctuate across the menstrual cycle and are influenced by ovarian hormones remains largely unknown. This study sought to examine whether the levels of weight preoccupation vary across the menstrual cycle and whether the changes in ovarian hormones and/or other factors (i.e., emotional eating and negative affect) account for menstrual cycle fluctuations in this eating disorder phenotype.


For 45 consecutive days, 352 women (age, 15-25 years) provided daily ratings of weight preoccupation, negative affect, and emotional eating. Saliva samples were also collected on a daily basis and assayed for levels of estradiol and progesterone using enzyme immunoassay techniques.


Weight preoccupation varied significantly across the menstrual cycle, with the highest levels in the premenstrual and menstrual phases. However, ovarian hormones did not account for within-person changes in weight preoccupation across the menstrual cycle. Instead, the most significant predictor of menstrual cycle changes in weight preoccupation was the change in emotional eating.


Fluctuations in weight preoccupation across the menstrual cycle appear to be influenced primarily by emotional eating rather than ovarian hormones. Future research should continue to examine the relationships among ovarian hormones, weight preoccupation, emotional eating, and other core eating disorder symptoms (e.g., body dissatisfaction, compensatory behaviors) in an effort to more fully understand the role of these biological and behavioral factors for the full spectrum of eating pathology.


binge eating; bulimia nervosa; eating disorders; emotional eating; estradiol; menstrual cycle; ovarian hormones; progesterone; weight preoccupation

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