The relation of eating problems and amenorrhea in ballet dancers

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1987 Feb;19(1):41-4.


Exercise-induced amenorrhea has received considerable attention in the medical literature. The combination of exercise and low body weight is thought to exert synergistic effects in the pathogenesis of amenorrhea, while the role of dieting and eating problems, another possible causative mechanism, has not been examined. A sample of 55 adult dancers in national and regional classical ballet companies was studied; their mean age was 24.7 yr. Fifty-six percent of the dancers had delayed menarche (age 14 or later) and 19% of the sample were currently amenorrheic (5 months or longer). One-third of the dancers reported having had an eating problem (self-reported anorexia nervosa or bulimia). Amenorrhea and reported eating problems were significantly related: 50% of amenorrheics reported anorexia nervosa while 13% of the normals did. In addition, prolonged amenorrhea was significantly related to dieting (as measured by EAT-26 scales, a measure of dieting behavior). As expected, leanness and absolute weight also were related to prolonged amenorrhea. Amenorrhea in this sample of adult dancers was not related to current activity level or age at which training began. Thus, eating problems may be one factor in the pathogenesis of prolonged amenorrhea in certain athletic groups.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amenorrhea / etiology*
  • Body Weight
  • Dancing*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menarche