Cover image for Female fertility and the body fat connection
Female fertility and the body fat connection
Frisch, Rose E. (Rose Epstein)
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 194 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RG136 .F755 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
RG136 .F755 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Are girls entering puberty earlier than they used to? This question, which has been debated recently by doctors and scientists in the pages of Time magazine and the New York Times , proves that there is still a great deal to learn about women's reproductive health. Female Fertility and the Body-Fat Connection is the record of one scientist's groundbreaking and decades-long work on the connections among fertility, body fat, and reproductive health in women.

Rose E. Frisch explains here how, in women, a certain amount of body fat is crucial to the reproductive system and sexual maturation. Women who are too lean are infertile and cannot conceive children; young girls who are too thin have a delayed onset of their first period. Female Fertility and the Body-Fat Connection illuminates how and why a "critical fitness" level underlies a woman's reproductive health. In the process Frisch gives readers a comprehensive view of the research done to date on the relationship between body composition and fertility and also describes her own journey as a woman scientist working to advance her critical-fitness hypothesis both to the general public and the scientific community. Frisch answers the questions every woman has about the desirable weight for health and fertility and even includes tables to help women find their own best weight. She also demonstrates how important diet and exercise are for the long-term reproductive health of women, and shows what factors influence the onset of puberty in girls.

Each milestone of the reproductive life span is affected by food intake and energy output, the factors affecting the storage of fat. Female Fertility and the Body-Fat Connection is a cornerstone to understanding the health of girls and women.

Author Notes

Rose E. Frisch is an associate professor of population sciences emerita at the Harvard School of Public Health and a member of the research faculty of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the John Simon Memorial Guggenheim Foundation. She is the editor of Adipose Tissue and Reproduction and has written widely on female fertility and on the natural fertility of populations.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Although women tend to abhor body fat, it plays an important role in the reproductive process. Frisch (associate professor emerita, Ctr. for Population and Development Studies, Harvard Sch. of Public Health) has studied the relationship between body composition and fertility for many years. In her fascinating book, she explains the intricate relationships among weight, body composition, and hormones. Using data from her longitudinal studies of young girls and women, she demonstrates that a "critical fitness level" is necessary for reproduction, noting that women who are too lean or too fat have trouble conceiving. Frisch also shows that diet and exercise are very important for women's long-term health and tells readers how to calculate their body mass index, the ratio of weight to height that indicates fitness. Charts will allow readers to see if their body mass index is within the healthy range. Unlike more clinical resources like C. Maud Doherty and Melanie Morrissey Clar's The Fertility Handbook, Frisch's book provides a thoroughly understandable account of important scientific research that will provide women with the tools to regulate their health. Highly recommended for all collections. Barbara M. Bibel, Oakland P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The theme of this fascinating book is the relationship of adequate body fat, diet, and exercise on the maintenance of fertility and reproductive health in women. Frisch, a pioneer in body-fat content and fertility in women, relates her career in science and her struggles in promoting her "critical fatness" hypothesis. The book dwells on various topics including female adolescence, the female reproductive system, menarche, critical fatness, athletes and infertility, proper diet and exercise and long-term reproductive health, exercise and lower risk of breast cancer, and the body mass index. One of the most interesting topics concerns the hormone leptin, which regulates body fat, decreases appetite, and increases energy expenditure and reproductive capability. Readers will also appreciate the section that discusses women athletes whose high lean-body content and low fat leads to decreases in estrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone levels, causing amenorrhea and infertility. However, when the athletes lose their fitness, decreasing muscle mass and gaining body fat, their menstrual cycles and fertility are reinstated. The bibliography enables readers to gain additional information. For anyone interested in the effects of diet, body fat content, and exercise on reproductive health in women and the risk of infertility and disease. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. H. S. Pitkow emeritus, Temple University

Table of Contents

Robert L. Barbieri, M.D.
Forewordp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
1 Female Body Fat: Celebrating the Differencep. 1
2 Too Little and Too Much Body Fatp. 14
3 Female Adolescence: Puberty and Growing Upp. 22
4 Eggs, Sperm, "Female Testes," and Other Fancies and Facts about the Reproductive Systemp. 38
5 Historical Guesses: What Hastened or Slowed Menarche?p. 59
6 Predicting Menarche: Critical Fatnessp. 65
7 Pubertal Body Fat--Sex Fat? A Neat Mechanism for Reproductive Successp. 83
8 Physical Activity and Too Little Fat: Ballet Dancers, Swimmers, Runners, and Other Athletesp. 93
9 Exercise and Lower Risk of Breast Cancer: The Alumnae Health Studyp. 113
10 Leptin: A New Hormone Made by Body Fatp. 137
11 Population, Food Intake, and Fertility: Old and New Perspectivesp. 147
12 Fatness, Fertility, and the Body Mass Index: Finding Your "Desirable Weight"p. 170
Biographical Notep. 175
Glossaryp. 177
Suggestions for Further Readingp. 181
Indexp. 187