Female hormones don't cause overeating and weight gain

University Park, Pa. --- Don't blame it on your hormones. A Penn State study has shown that, contrary to popular notions, women don't necessarily gain weight, overeat and binge on chocolate or carbohydrates during the premenstrual phase of their menstrual cycle or when taking contraceptive hormones.

In a study conducted by Christine L. Pelkman, a Penn State doctoral candidate in biobehavioral health, women ate about 4 percent more but also burned about 4 percent more calories during the premenstrual phase of their menstrual cycle. Suppressing the cycle with a contraceptive drug didn't significantly alter food intake, change food preferences, or cause weight gain.

The study was the first randomized, placebo-controlled investigation to examine how eating and calorie burning are affected both by the menstrual cycle and by a popular injectable long-acting contraceptive drug, Depo-Provera, in the same women. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, more than a million American women used Depo Provera in 1995, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

"The theory has been that if you administer contraceptive hormones, you lower a woman's basal metabolism and she will gain weight," Pelkman says. "We saw no dramatic increase in calorie intake and didn't see a dampening of the number of calories the women burned. There were no changes in food preferences or diet composition either."

She adds, "There was no shift in chocolate intake or in how much they liked chocolate. No shift in their taste for sweet foods in general. No shift in carbohydrate preferences."

The Penn State researcher will present her findings July 7 at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior in Clearwater, Fla.,in a paper, "Reproductive Hormones and Eating Behavior in Young Women." Her co-authors are Robert Heinbach, Penn State physician, and Dr. Barbara Rolls, who holds the Guthrie Chair in Nutri

Contact: Barbara Hale
Penn State

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