Psychological Medicine

Original Article

Ovarian hormones and binge eating in bulimia nervosa

a1 Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, IA, USA
a2 Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, MA, USA

Article author query
edler c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
lipson sf   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
keel pk   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background. Symptom fluctuation in bulimia nervosa (BN) is related to menstrual cycle phase. However, the relationship between bulimic symptoms and ovarian hormones (estrogens and progesterone) has not been examined directly in women with BN.

Method. Regularly menstruating women with DSM-IV BN (n=9) and regularly menstruating controls (n=8) collected hormone samples and recorded mood and bulimic symptoms daily for 35 consecutive days. Estradiol and progesterone were measured by radioimmunoassay. Within-subject analyses examined prospective longitudinal associations between changes in ovarian hormones and changes in binge frequency in women with BN. Analyses controlled for the possible influence of negative affect on binge frequency as well as the influence of progesterone when examining estradiol associations and the influence of estradiol when examining progesterone associations. Between-subject analyses examined whether women with BN were more likely to have disrupted hormonal profiles than controls.

Results. Increases in binge eating were significantly associated with both decreases in estradiol and increases in progesterone in BN women with intact menstrual cycles. Although BN women were more likely to have disrupted hormone profiles than controls, this difference did not reach statistical significance, and mean estradiol and progesterone levels did not differ between bulimic and control groups.

Conclusions. The results are consistent with those from experimental animal studies and suggest that decreases in estradiol and increases in progesterone may contribute to increases in binge eating. Ovarian hormone function represents a promising candidate for unraveling the neurobiological mechanisms of binge eating.

(Published Online October 12 2006)

c1 University of Iowa, E11 Seashore Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA. (Email: