Differences in dietary intake as a function of sexual activity and hormonal contraception

Diana Fleischman, D. Fessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As a consequence of the need to downregulate some maternal immune responses so as to tolerate paternal genetic material following conception, the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle is associated with increased susceptibility to infection. Because meat was one of the primary sources of foodborne pathogens throughout our evolutionary history, Fessler (2001) predicted a decrease in meat intake during the luteal phase; the current research provides the first test of this prediction. Based on the assumption that any such behavioral changes would be hormonally mediated, we also investigated the effects of varying levels of exogenous hormones on meat consumption by examining dietary intake in women using hormonal contraceptives. Lastly, because, from a functional perspective, immunomodulation is unnecessary during anovulatory cycles and in women who are not currently sexually active, luteal phase compensatory behavioral prophylaxis was predicted to be absent in these contexts. Although we find that women who are sexually active eat less meat than those who are not, we do not find support for the core prediction regarding effect of cycle phase on meat consumption, nor do we find support for the ancillary prediction that meat consumption would be influenced by the presence or withdrawal of exogenous hormones. We replicate the finding that periovulatory total food intake is decreased compared to the rest of the cycle and find that sexually active women show a greater periovulatory decrease in food intake than sexually inactive women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-652
Number of pages11
JournalEvolutionary Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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