Combined oral contraceptives and body weight: Do oral contraceptives cause weight gain? A primate model

A. Edelman, J. T. Jensen, M. Bulechowsky, J. Cameron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


BACKGROUNDThe aim of this study was to determine if oral contraceptive (OC) use affects body weight, body composition and metabolism in primates.METHODSReproductive-age female rhesus monkeys of normal and obese BMI were studied to document baseline weight stability, then treated continuously with an OC (dosed to achieve equivalent human serum levels for a 30 g ethinyl estradiol/150 g levonorgestrel preparation) for 237 days. Monkeys were monitored for changes in body weight, levels of physical activity (measured by a triaxial Actical accelerometer), food/caloric intake, percent body fat (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, DEXA) and metabolism (24 h metabolic rate and serum metabolic substrate and hormone concentrations).RESULTSAll 10 monkeys completed the study protocol with no adverse events. While body weight (-0.73 change) and percent body fat (-1.78 change) of the normal BMI group did not significantly decrease from baseline, obese monkeys showed a significant decrease in body weight (-8.58 change, P < 0.01) and percent body fat (-12.13 change P 0.02) with OC treatment. In both the obese (P 0.03) and the normal BMI (P 0.01) groups, there was a significant increase in basal metabolic rate with OC use. No changes were seen in food intake, activity level or lean muscle mass with OC use for either BMI-based group.CONCLUSIONSOverall, OC use appears to cause a slight increase in basal metabolic rate in female monkeys, leading to a decrease in body weight and percent body fat in obese individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-336
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • BMI
  • metabolism
  • oral contraceptives
  • weight gain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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