Women's Health and Exercise Lab

Description of Research

We perform human clinical research in the area of women's health and exercise. We use an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to increase our understanding of the physiological and behavioral underpinnings of interactions between energy balance, reproductive function, bone health and exercise performance. We conduct both randomized clinical trials and short-term prospective experiments to further understand the female athlete triad, the etiology of menstrual disturbances, bone loss and stress fracture in premenopausal women, the impact of post-meal metabolism and gut peptides on energy balance, reproductive function, bone strength and stress fractures, the impact of eating behavior phenotypes on health outcomes, and the role of energy balance on sports performance. Our laboratory utilizes methodological approaches such as daily urine collection and measures of urinary steroids and gonadotropins, the measurement of resting metabolic rate, thermic effect of a meal, and caloric expenditure of physical activity, aerobic fitness, metabolic and reproductive hormone and gut peptide testing, bone density (DXA), bone microarchitecture (pQCT), body composition (DXA and underwater weighing), and eating behavior assessments.

Research Team

Directors: Mary Jane De Souza, Ph.D., and Nancy I. Williams, Sc.D.

Senior Research Technologist: Ellen M. Bingham, M.S.

Project Coordinators: Jay Lieberman, Ph.D. candidate and Heather Allaway, Ph.D. candidate

Postdoctoral Fellows: Rebecca Mallinson, Ph.D. and Karsten Koehler, Ph.D.

Graduate Students: Jay Lieberman, Ph.D. candidate, Heather Allaway, Ph.D. candidate, and Dylan Petkus, B.S.

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Students: Emily Southmayd

Recent Publications

Experimental Approaches

Current Projects


Goal: To test the effectiveness of 12 months increased food intake to improve bone health and restore menstrual cycles in women with menstrual disturbances who exercise regularly and have a chronic energy deficit

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Thermic Effect of Food Study

Goal: To determine the effect of a mixed-composition meal on the thermic effect of food, fuel utilization, subjective appetite, and appetite hormone responses in women with exercise-associated functional hypothalamic amenorrhea secondary to a chronic energy deficit.

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The Distance Running Study

Goal: To examine the effects of energy intake and energy expenditure on distance running performance and bone health in actively competitive female distance runners.

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