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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Davis, California » Western Human Nutrition Research Center » Obesity and Metabolism Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #324401

Title: Menstrual cycle hormones, food intake, and cravings

item KRISHNAN, SRIDEVI - University Of California
item TYRON, REBECCA - University Of California
item WELCH, LUCAS - University Of California
item Horn, William
item Keim, Nancy

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/9/2015
Publication Date: 4/2/2016
Citation: Krishnan, S., Tyron, R., Welch, L., Horn, W.F., Keim, N.L. 2016. Menstrual cycle hormones, food intake, and cravings. Meeting Abstract. Experimental Biology 2016, April 2-6, 2016, San Diego, CA.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Objective: Food craving and intake are affected by steroid hormones during the menstrual cycle, especially in the luteal phase, when craving for certain foods has been reported to increase. However, satiety hormones such as leptin have also been shown to affect taste sensitivity, and therefore food choices. While in vitro studies have reported that estradiol can stimulate leptin release, some human studies have shown that leptin is inversely associated with estradiol. On the contrary, progesterone has been positively associated with leptin, and therefore may play a significant role in food intake regulation. Our objective was to characterize the associations between sex steroid hormones, leptin and food intake behavior. Methods: Seventeen healthy, women with regular menstrual cycles, 23.2 ± 4.8 y, and BMI 22.4 ±1.9 kg/m2 were studied during their late follicular and luteal phases. Estradiol, progesterone, DHEAS, SHBG, leptin and insulin were measured in fasting samples. In addition, volunteers were asked to answer validated “Food Craving inventory” (FCI) and “Carbohydrate Rich Food intake” (CRFI) questionnaires at the start of the study. The FCI captured information regarding the types of foods volunteers were craving – rich in fat, carbohydrate or sweet taste, followed by beverages and fast foods over a three month period prior to starting the study. The CFRI captured information with regard to consumption of these same foods. We used Pearson’s correlation coefficients to identify positive or inverse associations between hormones and subjective food intake and craving scores. Results: Estradiol, progesterone and leptin were not associated with each other. However, women with higher estradiol during the luteal phase reported consuming more carbohydrate-rich foods in the past three months (r = 0.5174; p = 0.034), while also reporting increased craving for sweet foods (r = 0.4922; p = 0.045). Higher progesterone in the luteal phase was weakly associated with higher craving for sweetened beverages (r = 0.4723, p = 0.056). As expected, leptin was inversely associated with reported consumption of sweet tasting foods (r = -0.5071; p = 0.038), while also being inversely associated with craving fat rich foods (r = -0.4851; p = 0.048). Conclusions: Estradiol is associated with increased carbohydrate rich food intake, while progesterone with craving sweetened beverage intake. Leptin, while being associated with reduced craving for fat-rich food, and reduced sweet food intake, however, appears to not be associated with estradiol and progesterone, thereby suggesting that the female sex steroid hormones are independent influencers on food intake behaviors. Understanding the changes of estradiol, progesterone and leptin in women could clinically aid in advocating food choices during the pre-menstrual phase.