Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Ovarian hormones and binge eating: exploring associations in community samples

K. L. Klumpa1 c1, P. K. Keela2, K. M. Culberta1 and C. Edlera2

a1 Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

a2 Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA


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.

(Received September 10 2007)

(Revised January 23 2008)

(Accepted January 25 2008)

(Online publication February 29 2008)


c1 Address for correspondence: K. L. Klump, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, 107B Psychology Building, East Lansing, MI 48824-1116, USA. (Email: