Shared Genetics Between Disordered Eating and Periods (Menses)

Puberty at an early age increases the risk for disordered eating behaviours such as bingeing and purging (Jacobi et al., 2004; Kaltiala-Heino et al., 2001). What’s more, the hormone estradiol moderates the risk of disordered eating behaviours. More precisely, in a group of twins with low estradiol levels, differences in disordered eating are likely due to environmental factors (such as family, school, friends), but in a group of twins with high estradiol levels, the differences in disordered eating are more likely due to genetic factors. (I blogged about it here.)

Essentially, estradiol partially moderates the extent to which genes affect disordered eating.

This is interesting because the estrogen system has a role in regulating body weight and food intake, influences eating behaviours during the menstrual cycle, and obviously plays an important role during puberty. Moreover, one study showed that estrogen receptor genes (proteins that bind estrogen) are … Continue reading →

Weight Restored, Eating Well, But No Menses in Sight? Huh?

It is to be expected that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, at least when it comes to anorexia nervosa, relies heavily on measures that are hard to quantify and measure objectively. The big exception is amenorrhea: the absence of menses (commonly known as “periods”) for three consecutive months. As I’ve mentioned before, this criterion will be removed from the next edition of the DSM, thankfully. But for now, it is still there.

Perhaps because it is easy to measure objectively, the resumption of menses is often taken to be a marker of “health” and “recovery.”  It is a common goal in treatment for patients to reach a “menstruating weight.”

[Conversely, not losing one’s menstrual cycle is often perceived by the patient that they are not “sick enough.” Their eating disorder is not legitimate because clearly they are eating enough for their menstrual cycle to continue, … Continue reading →