Ovarian hormones and binge eating: exploring associations in community samples

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Abstract

Background

Significant associations between changes in ovarian hormones and binge eating are present across the menstrual cycle in women with bulimia nervosa. However, no study has examined these relationships in a non-clinical sample, despite the need for these data for designing risk-factor studies.

Method

In study 1, we modified several continuous measures of binge eating and identified those that were most sensitive to menstrual-cycle fluctuations in a non-clinical sample of 10 women who completed measures for 35 days. In study 2, we explored associations between ovarian hormones and binge-eating scores in nine women who completed these same measures for 65 days and provided daily saliva samples for assays of estradiol and progesterone concentrations.

Results

In study 1, the Emotional Eating subscale of the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire exhibited superior reliability and was most sensitive to predicted menstrual-cycle changes in binge eating (i.e. increased scores in the mid-luteal/premenstrual compared with follicular/ovulatory phases). In study 2, this scale showed predicted inverse associations with estradiol and positive associations with progesterone across the menstrual cycle that could not be accounted for by changes in negative affect.

Conclusion

. Associations between ovarian hormones and binge eating are robust and present in clinical and non-clinical samples. Findings support the ability to examine the role of ovarian hormones as risk factors for binge eating in large-scale prospective studies and twin studies.

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