The need for nicotine and menstrual cycle

PQuitting smoking can be a very difficult task for a person addicted to nicotine.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is responsible for 480,000 deaths per year in the US alone. That is almost one-fifth of all deaths. Although the health consequences of smoking are well known, quitting the habit it is still a real challenge.

It turns out that it is easier for men to quit smoking. Women also have a 25 percent greater risk of developing coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For this reason, any discovery that could help women quit smoking is important.

Studies show that it is easier to quit smoking in a specific phase of the menstrual cycle.

The menstrual cycle is divided into three phases: follicular, ovulation and luteal phase. In the follicular phase the level of estrogen in a woman’s body gradually increases, while in the luteal phase, progesterone rises. The study showed that estrogen and progesterone may modulate the behavior leading to addiction. Understanding how the phase of the menstrual cycle, affects the nervous processes, cognition and behavior is a key step in the development of more effective treatments.

The research shows that during the follicular phase (prior to ovulation), the ratio of progesterone to estrogen is the lowest and addictive behaviors are more likely. Conversely, during the premenstrual (luteal phase), when the ratio of progesterone to estrogen is highest, addictive behaviors are suppressed.

Compared to the luteal phase, follicular phase have shown a higher activity to stimuli associated with smoking in areas of the brain involved in reward. Running on this track, 38 female participants were divided into two groups depending on the phase of the cycle. According to the data, in the luteal phase, communication between regions of control and reward was reduced.
These data confirm that progesterone may exert a protective effect against addiction and these findings provide information on gender differences in smoking cessation.

Thanks to these arrangements female smokers can quit smoking with a new approach.

Written by: Paulina Rudzka, Marta Misztal, Monika Klimek

1. Wetherill RR et al., Influence of menstrual cycle phase on resting-state functional connectivity in naturally cycling, cigarette-dependent women,Biology of Sex Differences, doi: 10.1186/s13293-016-0078-6, published online 31 May 2016.
2. Teresa R.Franklin et al., Influence of menstrual cycle phase on neural and craving responses to appetitive smoking cues in naturally cycling females,Nicotine and Tobacco Research, doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntu183, published online April 2015

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