A new study challenges the commonly held notion—may I even say, the myth—that birth control pills cause weight gain. The article’s findings will hopefully assure women that they do not need to refrain from the pill as a form of birth control.
The lead author of the study, Alison Edelman, M.D., a physician and researcher in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, even states that “concern about weight gain is one of the main reasons why women may avoid or discontinue birth control, which in turn places them at greater risk for an unplanned pregnancy.”
As noted in the January 19th Science Daily, the researchers studied rhesus macaque monkeys, whose reproductive systems are very similar to humans’, at the OHSU Oregon National Primate Research Center for almost a year:
At the beginning of the study, half the animals were obese and half were normal weight. During the eight-month treatment period, animals received doses of oral contraceptives, adjusted to the weight of the animals so that it mimicked dosage in humans. Researchers tracked weight, food intake, activity levels, body fat and lean muscle mass. At the study’s conclusion, the normal weight group remained weight stable whereas the obese group lost a significant amount of weight (8.5%) and percent of body fat (12%) due to an increase in basal metabolic rate. No changes were seen in food intake, activity or lean muscle mass for either group.
Some may quibble about the study’s findings, as they are based on primates. Anticipating this critique, Judy Cameron, Ph.D., a senior author of the paper, says that the study still ‘strongly suggests that women should not be as worried as they previously were.’ As she also notes, “This study suggests that worries about weight gain with pill use appear to be based more on fiction than on fact”—indeed, and in fictions and ‘urban myths’ that, intentionally or not, may lead some women to forego using contraception in the form of the pill.
Look around the Internet a little and, even while a number of reputable sites clearly state that the pill does not cause weight gain, a woman is just as likely to find sites that state the opposite or suggest that, ‘well, you never know, it might.’ With this new study, practitioners can, one hopes, respond to women’s queries much more definitively. And we can perhaps consider, why is this myth being kept alive?
The article is due to appear in next month’s edition of the journal Human Reproduction; the research was conducted at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University.
Photo by starbooze.