We studied 21 ballet dancers aged 19.4 ± 1.4 years, hypothesizing that undernu-trition was a major factor in menstrual irregularity in this population. Menstrual history was determined by questionnaire. Eight dancers had always been regular (R). Thirteen subjects had a history of menstrual irregularity (HI). Of these, 2 were currently regularly menstruating, 3 had short cycles, 6 were oligomenorrheic, and 2 were amenorrheic. Subjects completed a weighed dietary record and an Eating Attitudes Test (EAT). The following physiological parameters were measured: body composition by anthropometry, resting metabolic rate (RMR) by open-circuit indirect calorimetry, and serum thyroid hormone concentrations by radioimmunoassay. R subjects had significantly higher RMR than HI subjects. Also, HI subjects had lower RMR than predicted by fat-free mass, compared to the R subjects. Neitherreported energy intake nor serum thyroid hormone concentrations were different between R and HI subjects. EAT scores varied and were not different between groups. We concluded that in ballet dancers, low RMR is more strongly associated with menstrual irregularity than is currentreported energy intake or serum thyroid hormone concentrations.
The authors are with the MRC/UCT Bioenergetics of Exercise Research Unit, Department of Physiology, University of Cape Town Medical School. Direct correspondence to E.V. Lambert, MRC/UCT Bioenergetics of Exercise Research Unit, University of Cape Town Medical School, Sport Science Institute of South Africa, P.O. Box 115, Newlands 7725, South Africa.