Descriptive review: Hormonal influences on risk for eating disorder symptoms during puberty and adolescence


  • Supported by grant R21AA020588-01A1 from NIH/NIAAA.



Puberty is an important period of risk for the onset of eating pathology in adolescent females. This review focuses on changes in reproductive hormones during puberty as one specific psychopathogenic mechanism.


Studies of puberty and eating disorder-related phenotypes were identified using search databases and the reference sections of previous literature.


Correlational studies of adult women and experimental studies of animals provide evidence for the effects of reproductive hormones on eating disorder symptoms. Very few studies of puberty, however, have directly measured or tested the effects of hormonal change in samples of human adolescents. Commonly used measures of pubertal development, such as menarche or self-reported pubertal status, are relatively poor indicators of individual differences in hormones. The extent to which puberty-related hormonal change accounts for elevated risk for disordered eating remains unclear.


Future research is necessary to elucidate the specific relations between hormonal change during puberty and risk for disordered eating. In particular, there is a need for longitudinal studies with multivariate measurement of pubertal development, including direct measures of change in reproductive hormones. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2014; 47:718–726)