Jessica H.Bakera, at all
- Female reproductive hormones influence changes in eating disorder symptoms.
- The menopause transition is a time of chaotic reproductive hormone change for women.
- Midlife women are often ignored in eating disorder research.
- The menopause transition may be a risk period for an eating disorder.
Eating disorder symptoms change in a predictable pattern over the menstrual cycle such that changes in symptoms are triggered by changes in the ovarian hormones estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4). To date, work in this area has focused exclusively on young adult women. The objective of this pilot study was to examine the effect of E2 and P4 on eating disorder symptom change in midlife women during early perimenopause.
Participants included women aged 42-52 in early perimenopause (n = 8). In-home self-assessments were completed for one menstrual cycle or 40-days, whichever occurred first. In-home self-assessments included collecting saliva samples each morning for E2 and P4 assays and completing online study questionnaires at the end of each day. Multilevel regression models examined the associations of E2 and P4 with daily symptoms of binge eating and body dissatisfaction.
E2 was positively associated with binge eating when P4 was high, but not when P4 was low. E2 was inversely associated with body dissatisfaction when P4 was low, but positively associated with body dissatisfaction when P4 was high. However, the simple slopes for the effect of E2 at both high and low P4 were not significant for body dissatisfaction.
Despite the pilot nature of this study, results are broadly consistent with the young adult literature indicating that P4 levels shape the impact of E2 on eating disorder symptoms. Larger studies with the inclusion of key moderators to account for individual heterogeneity are needed to confirm and extend these findings.