Food attitudes in female athletes: Association with menstrual cycle length

Nancy Williams, Heather Leidy, Kathleen Flecker, Angelique Galucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)979-986
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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