Effect of Oral Contraceptives on Weight and Body Composition in Young Female Runners

PROCTER-GRAY, ELIZABETH1; COBB, KRISTIN L.2; CRAWFORD, SYBIL L.1; BACHRACH, LAURA K.3; CHIRRA, ANNAPOORNA4; SOWERS, MARYFRAN5; GREENDALE, GAIL A.4; NIEVES, JERI W.6; KENT, KYLA7; KELSEY, JENNIFER L.1,2

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31816a0df6
CLINICAL SCIENCES: Clinical Investigations
Abstract

Purpose: To examine the effect of oral contraceptives (OC) on body weight, fat mass, percent body fat, and lean mass in young female distance runners.

Methods: The study population consisted of 150 female competitive distance runners aged 18-26 yr who had participated in a 2-yr randomized trial of the effect of the OC Lo/Ovral (30 μg of ethinyl estradiol and 0.3 mg of norgestrel) on bone health. Weight and body composition were measured approximately yearly by balance beam scales and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, respectively.

Results: Women randomized to the OC group tended to gain slightly less weight (adjusted mean difference (AMD) = −0.54 ± 0.31 kg·yr−1, P = 0.09) and less fat (AMD = −0.35 ± 0.25 kg·yr−1, P = 0.16) than those randomized to the control group. OC assignment was associated with a significant gain in lean mass relative to controls among eumenorrheic women (those who had 10 or more menstrual cycles in the year before baseline; AMD = 0.77 ± 0.17 kg·yr−1, P < 0.0001) but not among women with fewer than 10 menstrual cycles in that year (AMD = 0.02 ± 0.35 kg·yr−1, P = 0.96). Treatment-received analyses yielded similar results.

Conclusion: This randomized trial confirms previous findings that OC use does not cause weight or fat mass gain, at least among young female runners. Our finding that this OC is associated with lean mass gain in eumenorrheic runners, but not in those with irregular menses, warrants examination in other studies.

Author Information

1Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA; 2Division of Epidemiology, Department of Health Research and Policy, and 3Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA; 4Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA; 5Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; 6Clinical Research Center, Helen Hayes Hospital, West Haverstraw, NY and Columbia University, New York, NY; and 7Musculo-Skeletal Research Lab, Stanford University/Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Medical Health Care Systems, Menlo Park, CA

Address for correspondence: Elizabeth Procter-Gray, Ph.D., 76 Lower Gore Rd, Webster, MA 01570-3411; E-mail: LizGray79@Hotmail.com.

Submitted for publication July 2007.

Accepted for publication January 2008.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine