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Subclinical menstrual disturbances : are they more common in premenopausal vegetarian women than nonvegetarian women? Janelle, K. Christina


With the current trends toward adopting a healthier lifestyle, many people are increasing their carbohydrate intake and decreasing their fat intake in the hope of preventing certain chronic diseases. Furthermore, social demands placed on physical appearance have resulted in increased dietary restraint, particularly in women. Data are beginning to accumulate however, that suggest that these high fibre, low fat diets may contribute to menstrual disorders and bone loss. The purpose of this prospective observational study was to determine whether a relationship exists between vegetarianism, the menstrual cycle, dietary restraint and bone mineral density. Statistical comparisons showed that the nonvegetarian women had significantly greater body mass index values and percent body fat evaluations than their vegetarian counterparts, and that they displayed a significantly higher level of dietary restraint. The results from this research, over six months in 45 women, support the concept that dietary restraint is associated with an increased prevalence of subclinical menstrual disturbances. Furthermore, body mass index was shown to be positively correlated with dietary restraint. It is therefore feasible that dietary restraint, stress and anthropometric variables act synergistically in affecting menstrual function. The exact relationship remains to be determined ABSTRACT change over a period of time would be ideal and better represent the role of the diet on bone health, as well as eliminate small individual differences. However, if vegetarian women were, in fact, at increased risk of bone loss and osteoporosis due to some component of their diet, it is imperative that intervention and education be arranged to inhibit any further bone loss. As dietary restraint is related to women’s perceptions of weight and physical appearance, as well as society’s demands on body image, broad public education appears to be the ideal intervention. The feasibility of this solution is questionable however, as social and cultural pressures are not easily altered. Overall, the present study’s results indicated that vegetarian women tend to be leaner and less restrained eating than their nonvegetarian peers. It also confirmed the previously documented association of dietary restraint and subclinical menstrual cycle disturbances. More research is required to elucidate the role of vegetarianism, or certain components of the vegetarian diet, on bone density. The vegetarian women consistently displayed lower spinal bone mineral density values than the nonvegetarian women, although the differences were not significant and were largely eliminated when body weight was entered as a covariate. Measurement of bone density.

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