Want to stop smoking? Stay on top of your cycle!

Are you looking to stop or cut back on smoking during the new year? Sorry guys, this information is for women only. Ladies, these new findings may surprise you. According to a new study, tobacco cravings and menstruation are related. This knowledge could offer help for those of you looking to kick the habit...

One might wonder how it is that a research team came to investigate whether a woman's menstrual cycle has an influence on cigarette cravings. In any case, it was the question asked by Adrianna Mendrek's team from the University of Montreal and its affiliated institute of mental health. And the results indicate there is a correlation: "Our data suggests that the urge to smoke becomes even stronger at the beginning of the follicular phase, just after menstruation. The decrease in estrogen and progesterone hormones seams to accentuate the withdrawal syndrome and increase the activity of neural circuits involved in uncontrollable urges," said Mendrek.

For the purposes of the study, 34 people participated. The study included both men and women all of whom smoked more than fifteen cigarettes a day. Brain activity was measured by MRI as participants watched either neutral images or images intended to induce cigarette cravings. Each woman completed the test twice, first at the beginning of the follicular phase of her menstrual cycle, and then again in the middle of the luteal phase (the second part of the menstrual cycle). Estrogen and progesterone levels were also measured.

While the same neuronal circuits are implicated in both men and women, certain regions, in particular the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortex, are more highly activated in women during the first phase of the menstrual cycle.

The researchers were led to the initial hypothesis by the results of other studies. Prior research had indicated that women have a harder time quitting than men. In mice, researchers noted females became addicted faster than males. Such gender differences are often linked to the influence of sex hormones.

Ladies, if you want to quit smoking, you know where to start, or more precisely, when to start...
Source: Mendrek A., Dinh-Williams L., Bourque J., Potvin S. Sex Differences and Menstrual Cycle Phase-Dependent Modulation of Craving for Cigarette: An fMRI Pilot Study. Psychiatry Journal, 2014; 2014: 1 DOI:10.1155/2014/723632

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