Mimic caloric restriction as a means to birth control?

I’ll admit that female endocrinology is not something I know a great deal about, but I do know that most of the birth control pills today follow a general strategy of fooling the body into thinking it is pregnant. This stops ovulation and implantation.

It is also the case that certain types of stress, notably caloric restriction and extremely high levels of physical activity can also retard both ovulation and menstruation. In fact, young girls who are serious athletes often do not experience menarche until years later than ordinary girls. (On the other hand, for reasons not fully understood, the average age of menarche has been gettting significantly younger in recent decades.)

The evolutionary reason for the late menarche seems obvious — if times are tough, and food is scarce, it may be best to not have babies right then.

Anyway, there must be some hormonal signals which these levels of stress generate which trigger the reproductive system not to operate. My question is — might it be possible to mimic these signals, without other harmful effects, as a method of birth control and even menstrual supression?

Of course, we’re very interested in other ways to mimic the signals of caloric restriction without the actual restriction, since in all the animals tested so far, caloric restriction results in serious extension of lifespan and youthspan.

They're already working on it

There’s a commercial drug called Seasonale that reduces menstruation to quarterly. I don’t know if it’s using that particular mechanism.

Nope

In fact, women can switch to quarterly periods by simply taking several of the existing formulations of birth control pills. I suspect Seasonale is just one of those pills with a new name and new instructions. Large numbers of women are doing this today. Some go even longer though with others, the body give signs after 3-4 months that it really would like to menstruate. (Obviously this is just what I've read, not direct experience.)

Early puberty

"for reasons not fully understood, the average age of menarche has been gettting significantly younger in recent decades"

Please correct me if I am wrong, but it was my understanding that kids are gonig through puberty earlier because of an increase in hormones in our meat and dairy products. See "Diet for a New America" by John Robbins.

That is one of the theories,

That is one of the theories, but it was my understanding the question was not settled.

RE: Early puberty

It's certainly not that simple. Yes, there are hormones in
(some) meat and dairy products, and hormones are involved in
puberty. However, this isn't enough information to conclude that
hormones from food reduce the age of puberty.

In many countries in Europe, there are NO hormones in meat and
dairy products. From what I can see, the onset of puberty is
occurring earlier and earlier here as well. 10 or 11 for girls is
not uncommon.

The general reason is probably better health and nutrition in general,
or at least MORE nutrition. As Brad mentioned, low food intake leads
to an extended life span AND youth span. So, it is not surprising
that high intake shortens this span.

It also makes sense from the point of view of evolutionary biology.
If food is good, grow up and get pregnant as quickly as possible and
take advantage of the good times while they last. Other species
take this them to more extreme implementations, such as producing
almost all male or almost all female offspring depending on climate,
food supply etc.

To get back to Brad's first point and the replies to it, there are in
fact birth-control pills which one can take without a pause. (The
usual plan is three weeks of pills followed by a week-long pause,
during which menstruation occurs (some pills might have placebos for
this week, so that one doesn't forget to start up again after the week
but just continues to take them.) In other words, they suppress
not only ovulation but also menstruation permanently.

Of course, this is not good in the long term. Birth-control pills are
not good in the long term and other methods are to be preferred if
possible. (This is not surprising; the female body is made to be
pregnant or nursing and this can't be simply switched off; there is a
lot of evidence that lack of ovulation, pregnancy and nursing is one
of the causes of breast cancer.) However, it is relatively safe
and easy to just leave out the monthly pill-break (menstruation)
when going on a summer holiday or whatever.

Taming the Red Dragon

>My question is — might it be possible to mimic these signals, without other harmful effects, as a method of birth control and even menstrual supression?

In Qigong (traditional Chinese health practices) this is called "Taming the Red Dragon" and intended mainly for menstrual suppression as a means to longevity.

Birth control and Menses in Early puberty

As an RN I can tell you what causes earlier menses in women, it meat and its not because of hormones in it. It because women eat more of it now than they did, say, 100 years ago. Protein is what controls ALL blood flow, clotting etc. Take albumin, a protein in the blood, it controls how our cappilaries exchange O2 and CO2 through pressure. When women have higher concentrations of protein in their syestem, they naturaly tend to have menarche earlier. Just look at the differance in MAerican girls (average age of menses 12 yrs) as compared to that of under devoloped contries or even Asia where meat and protein consumption as a whole is decreased, they can average as high as 15!
The big question that people need to be looking at is this; teenage pregnancy rates have plummated in the last 20 years, but studies show that teens are still practicing unsafe, unprotected sex at about the same levels, and studies show that teen preganancy may be dropping due to higher levels of infertility in men. Why? Some studies show that its becasue of the same reason that women have menses earlier, others say that humans as a whole are becoming more monagomous and the sperm does not have to "compete" with other sperm, is this an argument for polygamy? I hope not.
As for birth control that elimanates menarche, Depo Provera does just that in about 80% of women who use it long term, however long term use (especially by young women) has shown to increase bone mineral density loss. Its a loss/loss no matter what you do.
Or how about this, insurance will not pay for birth control becasue it is "elective" but then will cover the delivery...wouldn't it be cheaper for them to just cover the damn pill so everyone else wouldn't have to payer higher premiums because of unwanted pregnancies?

That might make sense

But it would not be insurance. Insurance is to spread out the risk of unexpected events that you can’t handle the cost of. (Well, people buy it for events they can easily handle the cost of, but that’s just a mistake.)

A true insurance company would offer you cheaper insurance (covering birth) if you were on effective contraception, and charge more if you did not use contraception or used less effective types. Hard to enforce sometimes, though.

Of course, another thing that happens, due to regulation is that men pay more for insurance (and subsidize the cost of planned events like birth control, even though they will not medically “need” it for themselves — though theyh might wish their woman to have it. This is social policy, not insurance, to increase sexual equality when the real world is unequal, and that’s fine — but again it should not be called health insurance.

I think we should split social policy, based on our morals, from our business decisions like how to buy and sell insurance. But I won’t get my wish.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

His name is Brad Templeton. You figure it out.
Please make up a name if you do not wish to give your real one.
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Personal home pages only. Posts with biz home pages get deleted and search engines ignore all links
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options