A recent study published in JAMA Network Open found an above-normal BMI in childhood may increase a woman's risk of premenstrual disorders (PMDs) in young adulthood.
From prior studies that have shown a link between premenstrual disorders and higher BMI, premenstrual disorder was thought to lead to higher BMI because of increased cravings and mood changes that accompany the disorder. But in this new prospective cohort study led by Donghao Lu, MD, PhD of the Karolinksa Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, results suggest that a higher BMI may actually lead to premenstrual disorder.
Premenstrual disorders are characterized by emotional and physical changes before menstruation and include premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Premenstrual symptoms can include mood swings, hypersensitivity, insomnia, fatigue, and food cravings. PMDs are also associated with suicidal behavior and high blood pressure. Psychological symptoms of PMDD can be disabling, interfering with women's ability to function socially.
Researchers analyzed data from over 6500 US women participating in the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS). These women had enrolled in GUTS in 1996 and 2004 when they were children. As children, they answered questionnaires that recorded their height and weight, and in 2013, they filled out a questionnaire on their premenstrual symptoms. From the latter questionnaire, 15% of these women met criteria for premenstrual disorders.
Researchers found that baseline BMI at the average age of 12.7 years was associated with an increased risk for PMDs at the average age of 26 years. They also found an increase in PMD symptom severity with increasing BMIs.
PMDs were also found to be more common in women who smoked, had started menstruating at a younger age, had been victims of childhood abuse, and who had anxiety and depression. The researchers adjusted for some of these factors and reported the association between high BMI and PMDs remained significant.
Sex hormones in females with higher BMIs or inflammatory responses to obesity are thought to potentially trigger PMDs.
Dr. Lu noted that other factors are at play in the development of PMDs since they also occur in women who had normal BMIs as children. But researchers suggest that information from this study may help with further research into childhood weight loss interventions to reduce a woman's chances of developing PMDs.