Adiposity and sex hormones across the menstrual cycle: The BioCycle Study

E. H. Yeung, C. Zhang, P. S. Albert, S. L. Mumford, A. Ye, N. J. Perkins, J. Wactawski-Wende, E. F. Schisterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: To investigate the influence of adiposity on patterns of sex hormones across the menstrual cycle among regularly menstruating women. Subjects: The BioCycle Study followed 239 healthy women for 1-2 menstrual cycles, with up to eight visits per cycle timed using fertility monitors. Methods: Serum estradiol (E2), progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) were measured at each visit. Adiposity was measured by anthropometry and by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Differences in hormonal patterns by adiposity measures were estimated using nonlinear mixed models, which allow for comparisons in overall mean levels, amplitude (i.e., lowest to highest level within each cycle) and shifts in timing of peaks while adjusting for age, race, energy intake and physical activity. Results: Compared with normal weight women (n=154), obese women (body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg m-2, n=25) averaged lower levels of progesterone (-15%, P=0.003), LH (-17%, P=0.01), FSH (-23%, P=0.001) and higher free E2 (+22%, P=0.0001) across the cycle. To lesser magnitudes, overweight women (BMI: 25-30, n=60) also exhibited differences in the same directions for mean levels of free E2, FSH and LH. Obese women experienced greater changes in amplitude of LH (9%, P=0.002) and FSH (8%, P=0.004), but no differences were observed among overweight women. Higher central adiposity by top compared to bottom tertile of trunk-to-leg fat ratio by DXA was associated with lower total E2 (-14%, P=0.005), and FSH (-15%, P=0.001). Peaks in FSH and LH occurred later (∼0.5 day) in the cycle among women with greater central adiposity. Conclusion: Greater total and central adiposity were associated with changes in mean hormone levels. The greater amplitudes observed among obese women suggest compensatory mechanisms at work to maintain hormonal homeostasis. Central adiposity may be more important in influencing timing of hormonal peaks than total adiposity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-243
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • adiposity
  • body composition
  • body mass index
  • estradiol
  • menstrual cycle
  • sex hormones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Adiposity and sex hormones across the menstrual cycle: The BioCycle Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Yeung, E. H., Zhang, C., Albert, P. S., Mumford, S. L., Ye, A., Perkins, N. J., Wactawski-Wende, J., & Schisterman, E. F. (2013). Adiposity and sex hormones across the menstrual cycle: The BioCycle Study. International Journal of Obesity, 37(2), 237-243.