The cause of menstrual disturbance in athletes is still debated. Apart from the acute and chronic effects of exertion, other associated behavioral variables are suspected to play a key role. A longitudinal study with frequent blood sampling was undertaken to link information about nutrition and stress with a quantitative assesment of endocrine menstrual function in 18 endurance-trained athletes and 25 age-matched, nonathletic women. Four athletes did not show hormonal signs of follicular development. The 14 athletes with cyclic gonadal function did not differ from controls with regard to estradiol concentrations during the follicular phase and at midcycle. During the luteal phase, however, they showed significantly reduced areas under the estradiol and progesterone curves. Caloric intake, as assessed by nutritional diaries, correlated positively with the area under the progesterone curve during the luteal phase (r(s) = 0.70, P < 0.01). Ratings of subjective stress in the area 'partner, family, friends' correlated negatively with the luteal progesterone area (r(s) = 0.80; P < 0.01). Data support the hypothesis that nutrition and stress may play a critical role in the genesis of menstrual disturbance in athletes.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)