Vol. 4 No. 1: Spring Equinox, 2002
The New Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research
The presence of estrogen in a woman's body has long been seen as a major contributor to the prevention of osteoporosis and heart disease. According to Dr. Jerilynn Prior, a Vancouver-based reproductive endocrinologist and researcher, progesterone, a hormone produced following ovulation, is also a key contributor to women's good health.
"A woman's body needs adequate amounts of progesterone to counterbalance menstrual-cycle estrogen surges and to prevent endometrial cancer," says Dr. Prior. "Research has shown that progesterone also stimulates bone formation therefore helping to prevent osteoporosis. Early synthesis of a few studies suggests that progesterone is also important in the prevention of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease."
Ovulation disturbances, however, are prevalent in many women throughout their reproductive lifespan. When ovulation is delayed or completely absent, the production of progesterone is reduced or eliminated. This imbalance between progesterone and estrogen puts their long-term health at risk.
Ovulation disturbances occur in women for various reasons, some of which are psychosocial stressors and can be prevented. In response to the current cultural emphasis on leanness, many women adopt a "dieting attitude? known as cognitive dietary restraint. The stress of worrying about food and weight causes shortening of the luteal phase (delays ovulation). Weight cycling (significant repeated fluctuations in body weight), physical stress and emotional stress are other causes.
"There are many unanswered questions that relate to the variability of the menstrual cycle and ovulation over time," Dr. Prior says. "I believe that understanding and treating ovulation disturbances will provide the key to prevention of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer for women." The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research (CeMCOR), founded by Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, will study the physical and psychological causes and effects of ovulation disturbances on women's overall health. CeMCOR will publish the scientific results and also disseminate the information to women themselves.
CeMCOR is a virtual center supported by a Scientific Advisory Council of International researchers located in Australia, Hong Kong, Norway, the United States and across Canada. Comprised of nutritionists, gynecologists, sociologists, epidemiologists, psychologists and endocrinologists, the team will bring a scientific yet woman centered approach to analyzing this key to good health for women.
"What's unique about this group is that we're putting social science and biology together in a novel focus on women's cycles and ovulation," says Dr. Prior. "The collaboration across disciplines is what's going to make the difference. CeMCOR will reframe scientific knowledge of the menstrual cycle and ovulation in a women-centered context."
Researchers will document variations in the menstrual cycle and ovulation in the context of the lives of premenopausal women of all ages. They will analyze the relationships of the menstrual cycle and ovulation changes with weight change, metabolism changes, eating attitudes, breast maturation, bone physiology, premenstrual experiences and changes in the physiology of exercise, respiration, cardiovascular function and breast density and nodularity.
The postulate that progesterone, as well as estrogen, is important contrasts with most studies that focus on estrogen treatment. Studies commonly equate osteoporosis risk with menopause. However, bone loss begins before menopause, and peak bone mass may reflect a woman's history of ovulation (and hence progesterone exposure).
A local Community Advisory Council will bring community perspectives and energy to guide the Scientific Advisory Council in setting research and education priorities. Meeting three times per year, the volunteer members will act as a reference group in the development and implementation of research and education projects.
Released by: Pauline Buck APR, Scientific Advisory Council 2002. The Scientific Advisory Council was established to provide support and scientific advice to CeMCOR. It will meet in person and/or by virtual technology twice a calendar year.
Jerilynn C. Prior MD, FRCPC Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism, at the University of British Columbia,Vancouver,BC, graduated with honors from Boston University. She trained in Boston, Syracuse, and Vancouver before becoming qualified in Endocrinology and Metabolism (American Board of Internal Medicine) in 1979. She is known for research relating to progesterone's roles in reproductive endocrinology and bone health and revolutionizing work on perimenopause.
Susan I. Barr, PhD, RDN, FDC, FACSM is Professor of Nutrition at the University of British Columbia. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia, and obtained her PhD in Human Nutrition from the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. Her research interests focus on cognitive dietary restraint (the perception of constantly limiting food intake), and she has demonstrated important associations among high levels of dietary restraint, menstrual disturbances, and bone health in young women of normal weight.
Siri Forsmo, MD MPH PhD, currently post doctoral fellow at the Dept. of Community Medicine and General Practice, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway. Her training is in gynaecology and obstetrics, community medicine and public health. Her research is mainly in epidemiology, notably in the fields of female cancer, osteoporosis and fractures, health services and medical technology assessment. She is also involved in several interdisciplinary projects in medical history and bioethics.
Ian S. Fraser, MD, BSc (Hons), FRANZCOG, FRCOG, CREI, Professor in Reproductive Medicine at the University of Sydney gained his undergraduate, postgraduate and specialist training at the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford. He gained specialist qualifications in obstetrics and gynaecology through the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (UK) and through the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG). He is a certified subspecialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and a past-President of RANZCOG. He is internationally recognized for his research in the fields of menstrual disorders, contraception, menopause and gynaecological endoscopic surgery.