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Obesity and Menstrual Cycle

What we know about obesity and menstrual cycle? Very often girls and women are asking questions about their weight. Are they OK or they need to loose some kilograms. How to know the correct weight? How to be healthy, beautiful and sexy? Is there any correlation between weight and menstrual cycle?

It was noted that there is a correlation between obesity and menstrual cycle. During last decades some observations confirmed that a very low or very high body weight could create disorders of the menstrual cycle, infertility and reduce fertility. Recently some molecular mechanisms of the correlations between weight and the menstrual cycle were discovered.

According to L.Davidsen, B Vistisen and A Astrup (2007) women’s weight and body composition is significantly influenced by the female sex-steroid hormones. Authors reviewed the scientific literature on the relationship between hormonal changes across the menstrual cycle and components of energy balance, with the aim of clarifying whether this influences weight loss in women. In the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (second part of menstrual cycle) it appears that women’s energy intake and energy expenditure are increased and they experience more frequent cravings for foods, particularly those high in carbohydrate and fat, than during the follicular phase (first par of menstrual cycle).

This suggests that the potential of the underlying physiology related to each phase of the menstrual cycle may be worth considering as an element in strategies to optimize weight loss.

Obesity and Menstrual Cycle – Irregular periods

Obesity and Menstrual cycle

Obesity and Menstrual cycle

Pretty often girls and women visit a doctor for irregular periods. If main analyses don’t show disturbances – doctors usually suggest that stress could create menstrual cycle irregularity. Unfortunately very often the high weight and obesity are not taken into consideration.

The mechanism behind increased weight and irregular menstrual cycles is related to disturbances in the normal hormonal balance.
Normal menstrual cycles correlate with normal cyclic production of hormones. Very often irregular cycles accompanied with increased weight. An increase in body fat percentage also increases circulating estrogen levels in the body. This excess estrogen causes conflicting signals to the ovaries and to the brain, which results in irregular or absent egg release (ovulation) from the ovaries. When ovulation is late or absent, abnormal cycles result.

Irregular cycles caused by obesity are often treated with hormonal medications, but the treatment should always include a weight-loss program. Even modest weight loss, sometimes just 5-10 pounds may result in improvement of the menstrual cycle in some women.

The decrease in percentage of body fat can improve the hormone balance between the brain and the ovaries, resulting in more regular ovulation and more normal cycles.

Obesity and Menstrual Cycle – Ovulation

For women who desire pregnancy and ovuation, the effects of obesity on the menstrual cycle can be frustrating as well, since a large percentage of infertile couples suffer from ovulatory dysfunction. Extra-weight increases the concentration of estrogens (women hormones) which could disturb the ovulation. If a woman is underweight – her hormones will stop working properly and her periods might stop altogether. Instead of using medications, sometimes it is much easier and more effective just control body weight which will lead to normal ovulatory menstrual cycles.

Obesity and Menstrual Cycle – Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

There are a number of symptoms women can experience before their period and all of these are brought together under the term PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome). A number of these symptoms can effect a woman’s weight in the lead up to their period, so many women do find they experience some sort of weight gain. Specific symptoms can include abdominal bloating, water retention, slight swelling of breasts, and food cravings. All of these can result in you gaining extra weight.

According to the Weight Watchers Research Department, food cravings, overeating and weight gain are commonly reported during the one to two weeks before menstruation occurs. But what is the science to support these symptoms, and what is their impact on weight loss success?

Obesity and Menstrual Cycle – Food Intake and Metabolism

While overeating is the popular perception, the research has shown that there are minor changes in actual food intake throughout the menstrual cycle. Most studies suggest an increase in eating of around 100 to 200 calories in the days before bleeding occurs, but this appears to be offset by the small rise in metabolism (around 5 to 10%) that occurs during the same time period. In other words, the body tends to adjust the calories in/calories out on its own. Therefore, in a weight stable state, no changes in weight will occur. However, if actively losing weight by following a restricted-calorie food plan, the likely result would be a slight (but hardly noticeable) increase in weight loss due to the increased metabolism without the usual increase in calories.

Alternatively, the result instead could be a slightly greater difficulty in following the food plan because of increased hunger during that period.

Obesity and Menstrual Cycle – Food Cravings

Although food cravings are commonly reported during certain times of the menstrual cycle, the scientific evidence on the subjects is limited. Some smaller studies suggest a link, particularly a craving for high carbohydrate sweets. These studies also show that cravings tend to occur more often in women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and that the cravings increase as symptoms worsen. While more research is needed to understand food cravings, the good news is that they do not appear to translate into large increases in calorie intake and subsequent weight gain.

Obesity and Menstrual Cycle – Water Retention

The most likely reason for a weight gain is water retention. While this is a common symptom that can be particularly discouraging when following a structured food plan, the weight gain is usually minor and temporary (that is, any weight that is gained is lost around the time of menstruation). Furthermore, water retention can be lessened during this time period by making small dietary changes, like reducing sodium and increasing fluids.

In general, exercising at particular times in the menstrual cycle could help women to lose more weight.


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