Ecology and ovarian function among Lese women of the Ituri Forest, Zaire

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1989 Apr;78(4):519-26. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330780407.


Ovarian function is examined in 35 Lese women inhabiting the Ituri Forest of northeastern Zaire over a period of 4 months through measurements of progesterone in saliva samples collected twice weekly. Ovulatory frequency is found to be only 56% on average, with a pattern of age variation similar to that observed in western women, though lower in level at each age. Average luteal progesterone levels of the Lese women are lower than those of Boston controls even if only ovulatory cycles are considered. Women with the poorest nutritional status, inferred from longitudinal weight changes and weight for height, show the greatest compromise of ovarian function, and the average ovulatory frequency of the whole sample declines in parallel with a period of weight loss over four months. It is suggested that low ovulatory frequency and luteal insufficiency contribute to the low fecundity of the Lese population and that nutritional status is likely to be one of the ecological factors modulating this effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle*
  • Ovulation*
  • Progesterone / analysis*
  • Saliva / analysis*
  • Seasons


  • Progesterone