Menstrual irregularities and energy deficiency in physically active women: The role of ghrelin, PYY and adipocytokines

Jennifer L. Scheid, Mary Jane De Souza

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

39 Scopus citations


Menstrual cycle irregularities are often observed among physically active women and athletes who participate in physical activity ranging from recreational to competitive exercise training. Further, such irregularities have been casually linked to an energy deficiency where caloric intake is inadequate for exercise energy expenditure resulting in a suppressive effect on growth and reproduction. Adaptations consistent with chronic energy deficiency, including reductions in resting energy expenditure and total triiodothyronine, have been observed in exercising women with functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA). Gut peptides and adipocytokines also appear to be altered in exercising women with FHA and have been hypothesized to be involved in the etiology of FHA. Ghrelin concentrations are elevated in exercising women with FHA. Interestingly, while fasting ghrelin, an orexigenic peptide, is elevated in women with FHA, PYY, an orexigenic peptide, is paradoxically also elevated in women with anorexia nervosa and exercising women with FHA. Leptin, an adipocytokine, is also suppressed in FHA associated with exercise and anorexia. A critical leptin concentration threshold is suggested to be necessary for regular menses to occur. Ghrelin, PYY, and leptin all have the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and, in the hypothalamus, can modulate appetite and food intake, and are hypothesized to affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. Future studies are needed to determine if ghrelin, PYY, or leptin play a direct role in the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, and if these signals can be altered by improving energy status secondary to increasing caloric intake and initiate the reversal of amenorrhea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCytokines, Growth Mediators and Physical Activity in Children during Puberty
EditorsJaak Jurimae, Toivo Jurimae, Andrew Hills
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2010

Publication series

NameMedicine and Sport Science
ISSN (Print)0254-5020
ISSN (Electronic)1662-2812

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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