The effect of oral contraceptive agents on the basal metabolic rate of young women Academic Article uri icon


  • The use of oral contraceptive agents by women may be a factor that contributes to the observed inter-individual variability in the BMR. We, therefore, measured the BMR, body build and composition in two groups of young women and also assessed their self-reported level of physical activity. One group had been using oral contraceptive agents for a period of 6 months or more (OCA, n 24), while the other group had never used oral contraceptives (NOCA, n 22). There were no significant differences in age, body build or composition. The absolute BMR in the groups were not significantly different when compared using an unpaired t test (OCA: 5841 (SD 471) v. NOCA: 5633 (SD 615) kJ/d). However, using an analysis of covariance, with either body weight or a combination of fat and fat free mass as covariates, the OCA group had a BMR almost 5% higher than that of the NOCA group (OCA: 5871 v. NOCA: 5601 kJ/d; P = 0.002). When those subjects with high self-reported levels of physical activity were excluded, the difference in BMR between the two groups persisted (P = 0.001). An ANOVA of oral contraceptives use and phase of menstrual cycle showed significant differences in BMR with use of oral contraceptives (P = 0.004) but no difference in BMR between phases of the menstrual cycle. In conclusion, the use of oral contraceptive agents deserves consideration when conducting and analysing data from studies on energy metabolism in young women, as it results in a significantly higher BMR.


publication date

  • June 1997