12-months of increased dietary intake does not exacerbate disordered eating-related attitudes, stress, or depressive symptoms in women with exercise-associated menstrual disturbances: The REFUEL randomized controlled trial

Nicole C.A. Strock, Mary Jane De Souza, Rebecca J. Mallinson, Marion Olmsted, Heather C.M. Allaway, Emma O'Donnell, Franziska Plessow, Nancy I. Williams

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2 Scopus citations


Disordered eating-related attitudes are a leading cause of energy deficiency and menstrual disturbances in exercising women. Although treatment recommendations include psychological counseling with increases in dietary intake, a key concern is whether increased dietary intake may exacerbate negative eating behaviors. Objective: To determine the effects of a 12-month nutritional intervention on eating-related attitudes and psychological characteristics in exercising women with oligomenorrhea/amenorrhea (Oligo/Amen). Methods: Intent-to-treat analysis of the REFUEL randomized controlled trial (#NCT00392873) in 113 exercising women (age [mean±SEM]:] 21.9 ± 0.4 yrs; BMI: 20.9 ± 0.2 kg/m2). Women were randomized to increase energy intake 20–40% above baseline energy needs (Oligo/Amen+Cal, n = 40) or maintain energy intake (Oligo/Amen Control, n = 36) while maintaining their exercise behaviors. A reference group of ovulatory women (OVref, n = 37) maintained diet and exercise behaviors. Body composition, eating attitudes, stress, and depressive symptoms were assessed at baseline and every 3 months. Results: At baseline, the Oligo/Amen groups had higher drive for thinness, cognitive restraint, and eating disorder risk than OVref group (p < 0.001). Increased energy intake led to increases in percent body fat and fat mass (p < 0.010), but not psychobehavioral outcomes, in the Oligo/Amen+Cal compared to Oligo/Amen Control group. Independent of group, cognitive restraint decreased (p < 0.001) and resilient coping increased (p < 0.007) over 12-months, while perceived stress (p = 0.143) and depressive symptoms (p = 0.344) were unchanged. Discussion: Long-term nutritional intervention consisting of modest increases in dietary intake with guidance from a registered dietician and a psychologist increases body and fat mass without increasing disordered eating-related attitudes, stress, or depressive symptoms in exercising women with Oligo/Amen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106079
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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