The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between indicators of risk of disordered eating, body image and varied menstrual cycle lengths. Altogether, 151 female athletes were invited from 16 sports and 70 female non-athletic controls were recruited from a university lecture class. The participants completed several surveys, including demographics, menstrual cycle history, physical activity, Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI) and the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ). Selected EDI subscales were summed to reflect eating disorder risk and body image. Menstrual cyclicity was based on self-reported cycle length for the last 6 months (normal cycles = 26-32 days, irregular cycles ≤ 26 or > 32 days). Athletes overall had more irregular cycles (29.1%) than the non-athletes (15.7%) (P < 0.05). There were significant differences in scores for eating disorder risk, body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, cognitive restraint (TFEQ) and disinhibition (TFEQ), only when athletes were divided based on menstrual cyclicity (i.e. irregularly cycling athletes had higher scores than athletes with normal menstrual cycle lengths). No differences in these scores were found between non-athletes with normal or irregular menstrual cycle lengths. In conclusion, irregularly short or long menstrual cycle length is associated with subtle indications of higher risk of disordered eating in female athletes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation