Effects of menstrual cycle phases and dietary behavior on threshold and preference for sucrose

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The effects of menstrual cycle (MC) phases (post-menses, premenses, and menses) and dietary behavior (Normal (N), Restrainer (R), and Restrainer/Disinhibitor (RD)) on women's thresholds and preferences for sucrose solutions was investigated. MC phase was determined using both daily temperature readings and days of menses. Dietary group was assigned on the basis of women's responses to the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire (Stunkard and Messick, 1985). Women reported for sensory testing every third day for five weeks following a two-week training phase. Each evening subjects filled out a questionnaire to assess their overall daily fluctuations in total consumption; cravings for sweets; mood (feeling good, happy, and tired); pain (menstrual and other discomfort); metabolic need for energy (hunger, and fatigue); and stress. The results indicated that threshold did not vary due to MC phase (p = 0.9118), dietary behavior (p = 0.4037), or the interaction of these two variables (p = 0.2940). Preference for sucrose fluctuated as a result of MC phase only (p = 0.0441). Of the variables assessed daily, only "other discomfort" (p = 0.0486), "feeling good" (p = 0.0091), and "feeling hungry" (p = 0.0944) correlated with preference for sucrose. However, these correlations did not relate with MC phase clearly, indicating preference is not the manifestation of these theorized causes of MC distress. In general this study does not support the negative mood, or increased metabolic need for energy theory of MC distress. The theory of a decreased pain threshold found some support. The theory implicating dietary behavior in the development of MC distress symptoms was significantly supported. The fact MC phases have been implicated in the perpetuation of eating disorders implies the need for a counseling approach for the women most significantly affected, i.e. the R/D group.