It is thought that total energy intake in women is increased during the luteal versus follicular phase of the menstrual cycle; however, less is understood regarding changes in diet composition (i.e., macro- and micronutrient intakes) across the cycle. The aim of this study was to investigate changes in macronutrient, micronutrient, and food group intakes across phases of the menstrual cycle among healthy women, and to assess whether these patterns differ by ovulatory status.
The BioCycle study (2005–2007) was a prospective cohort study of 259 healthy regularly menstruating women age 18–44 who were followed for up to two menstrual cycles. Dietary intake was measured using 24-h dietary recalls, and food cravings were assessed via questionnaire, up to four times per cycle, corresponding to menses, mid-follicular, expected ovulation, and luteal phases. Linear mixed models adjusting for total energy intake were used to evaluate changes across the cycle.
Total protein (P = 0.03), animal protein (P = 0.05), and percent of caloric intake from protein (P = 0.02) were highest during the mid-luteal phase compared to the peri-ovulatory phase. There were also significant increases in appetite, craving for chocolate, craving for sweets in general, craving for salty flavor, and total craving score during the late luteal phase compared to the menstrual, follicular, and ovulatory phases (P < 0.001).
Our findings suggest an increased intake of protein, and specifically animal protein, as well as an increase in reported food cravings, during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle independent of ovulatory status. These results highlight a plausible link between macronutrient intake and menstrual cycle phase.
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This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health (Contract # HHSN275200403394C). JW-W designed and implemented the study; AMG and SLM developed the overall research plan and drafted the manuscript; AMG and EMM performed the statistical analysis; LAS, EMM, NJP, KCS, and SLM participated in data analysis and interpretation and critically reviewed the manuscript. All authors read the manuscript and approved the final manuscript.
Conflict of interest
None of the authors have a personal or financial conflict of interest.
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Gorczyca, A.M., Sjaarda, L.A., Mitchell, E.M. et al. Changes in macronutrient, micronutrient, and food group intakes throughout the menstrual cycle in healthy, premenopausal women. Eur J Nutr 55, 1181–1188 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-015-0931-0