The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending over $40,000 to determine whether women drink more when they are about to get their menstrual period.
Arguing that there is a "historical bias towards men in the alcohol literature," an NIH grant stipulates that the subject is in need of further study.
"Women who drink moderately (less than 7 drinks a week, or 3 drinks a day) are at an increased risk for health related complications (e.g., liver disease) as compared to men who drink moderately," according to the grant. "Yet, given the historical bias towards men in the alcohol literature, there is a dearth of research investigating the etiological factors that take part in alcohol use in women. Thus, the present study focuses on vulnerability and protective factors that influence alcohol use in women."
The study hypothesizes that during the pre-menstrual period women are stressed, and therefore more likely to drink alcohol.
"In freely-cycling women, every month is marked by hormonal variation associated with the menstrual cycle," the grant explains. "In particular the luteal phase (pre- menstrual period) of the menstrual cycle is characterized by increased stress reactivity. Given the intricate relationship between stress and alcohol use, one would expect that the luteal phase be associated with increased vulnerability for alcohol use in women."
"However, the small extent of research on cycle phase and alcohol use to date has been mixed—likely due to methodological issues," it continued. "Thus the present study aims to rigorously and systematically investigate cycle phase variation in alcohol use."
The study has cost $42,676 so far, and is being conducted by a graduate student at the University of Washington. An initial grant was awarded earlier this year, and the project is set to last through May 2017.
The research will also look into whether "mindfulness" can be used by women to drink less. Mindfulness is defined as the "ability to pay attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally."
"Mindfulness is associated with lower alcohol use and is theorized to augment executive control and diminish impulsive systems," the grant said. "So, women with higher dispositional mindfulness may have more access to executive control function that facilitates healthier coping during the luteal phase."
"The proposed study will provide valuable insight into the understudied arena of etiological factors involved in women and alcohol use and provide training to an up-and-coming young researcher," the grant added.