New study explains food cravings before a period.

New study explains food cravings before a period.

Insulin Sensitivity and Premenstrual Food Cravings: Exploring the Link

Food cravings before a period

Many individuals who menstruate experience premenstrual food cravings, particularly for chocolate and carbohydrate-rich foods, which often lead to weight gain. A recent study published in Nature Metabolism suggests that these cravings may be a result of decreased insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity refers to the body’s ability to efficiently use glucose and lower blood glucose levels. The study found that insulin sensitivity varies throughout the menstrual cycle, with the highest levels occurring before ovulation and the lowest levels in the days preceding menstruation. This variability in insulin sensitivity may explain why many women feel hungrier before their period.

Previous research has shown inconsistent results regarding changes in blood glucose levels during the menstrual cycle. However, recent studies have indicated that blood glucose levels peak before menstruation and are lowest before ovulation. Interestingly, higher food cravings are reported when blood glucose levels are at their highest. This suggests a possible correlation between altered insulin sensitivity, fluctuating blood glucose levels, and increased appetite before menstruation.

The study, conducted on women with a natural and healthy menstrual cycle, examined insulin sensitivity in the brain during different phases of the menstrual cycle. Insulin was administered through a nasal spray, and the response of the hypothalamus, a region of the brain involved in regulating appetite and energy balance, was measured. The findings revealed that in lean women, brain insulin action improved peripheral insulin sensitivity before ovulation but not during the days leading up to menstruation.

This study’s limited sample size of only 11 participants prompts the researchers to urge further research to validate their findings. Despite this limitation, the study’s results provide compelling pilot information, giving rise to the possibility of insulin signaling in the brain playing a pivotal role in metabolic adaptations during the menstrual cycle.

Insulin sensitivity is a crucial factor in maintaining healthy blood glucose levels. Insulin, a hormone, facilitates glucose absorption in cells, supplying them with energy. High insulin sensitivity results in efficient glucose absorption, while low insulin sensitivity, known as insulin resistance, leads to elevated blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance may increase the risk of developing prediabetes and ultimately type 2 diabetes. This study highlights the influence of the menstrual cycle on brain sensitivity to insulin in individuals without prediabetes or diabetes.

During the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, when progesterone and estrogen levels decrease, cravings for sweet foods are most likely to occur. Previous studies focusing on individuals with type 1 diabetes have suggested that estrogen increases insulin sensitivity. It is hypothesized that the body increases glucose levels during the luteal phase to compensate for potential energy loss related to pregnancy or menstruation. From an evolutionary standpoint, females with regulated appetite and insulin sensitivity may have a reproductive advantage during times of food scarcity.

While weight gain before menstruation is not uncommon, studies indicate that weight often fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle. Weight loss typically occurs around ovulation, resulting in little overall change. Understanding the dynamics between hormonal fluctuations, metabolic health, and appetite may lead to more targeted interventions for managing weight and overall health during the menstrual cycle. Şebnem Ünlüişler, a genetic engineer at the London Regenerative Institute, suggests that women may benefit from adapting their diet and exercise routines based on their menstrual phase.

In conclusion, the research linking insulin sensitivity and premenstrual food cravings offers valuable insights into the physiological and psychological aspects of the menstrual cycle. Further studies are needed to strengthen these findings and explore potential interventions. By understanding the complex relationship between hormones, metabolism, and appetite, individuals can make informed choices to support their health and well-being throughout their menstrual cycle.