I was fortunate to attend and present a poster on one of my PhD studies at the ACSM Conference in San Francisco in early June. Using survey data collected from 700 endurance-trained women, we sought to determine if specific psychometric measures were able to classify psychological characteristics indicative of eating and/or weight control behaviour. Drive for thinness and dietary restraint scales appeared to classify a continuum of weight control and disordered eating behaviours in our sample, independent of age, sporting ability and a low BMI. A further interesting finding was that a high frequency of these endurance-trained women failed to increase dietary intake when exercise training load increased. This unique and insightful information may assist health and exercise professionals in screening and follow-up assessments for the consequences of disordered eating behaviours in endurance-trained women.
After the conference I headed to Pennsylvania State University to work with one of my supervisors, Professor Mary Jane De Souza. A big component of my research involves analysis of markers of metabolism and menstrual function and all the samples from my studies are being analysed at the Women’s Health and Exercise laboratory at Penn State.
The photo below is taken during our analysis of Ghrelin. Ghrelin is a peptide primarily secreted from the stomach that regulates appetite and short-term food intake to promote energy storage. It is also thought to be involved in the etiology of energy-related menstrual disturbances. Ghrelin is grossly elevated in amenorrheic exercising women with levels >70.0% higher than in other exercising women. Thus, ghrelin reflects a chronic state of extreme energy deficiency.
From blood, we are also looking at total triiodothyronine (TT3) which is a thyroid hormone that regulates both the production and use of energy within cells. Although, amenorrheic exercising women can demonstrate TT3 levels in the low range of normal (1.2-2.8nmol/L), the effect of energy-related amenorrhea, and also less severe menstrual disturbances, on TT3 is large in comparison to both sedentary and exercising ovulating women.
The biggest analyses from my studies though come from urine. Participants in two of my studies collected a daily urine sample EVERY morning for three consecutive menstrual cycles. This is so we can determine estrogen and progesterone exposure throughout the whole cycle and the effect of the dietary interventions I imposed on these ovarian
hormones. Results are pending so watch this space!