Zeinab Momeni Augustana Faculty

How menstruation and hormonal contraceptives affect blood sugar levels during exercise in women with T1D

Regular exercise provides important health benefits, but fear of dangerous drops in blood sugar during and after physical activity is a barrier to exercise for people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Interestingly, women with the disease are even less active than men.

When Zeinab Momeni examined current guidance to manage blood sugar levels during exercise, she discovered a gap in women’s research that she aims to fill and help improve health outcomes for women with T1D.

“I have realized that women are underrepresented in most exercise studies involving people with T1D, despite the fact that they have a disproportionate increase in health-related risks with age as compared to their male counterparts,” says Momeni, a postdoctoral fellow in the Augustana Faculty.

Women are already more at risk than men for serious outcomes of T1D and a lack of physical activity places them at higher risk of negative consequences such as muscle loss, bone fractures and cardiovascular disease due to aging. Regular exercise can have positive benefits to counteract this risk.

Momeni believes that our lack of understanding of the effects of hormonal fluctuation on blood sugar levels might explain why the current exercise guidelines are not as effective for women—and why women with T1D are less active than men. Both menstruation and hormonal contraceptive use affect blood sugar regulation.

Momeni will examine the effect of aerobic exercise on blood sugar levels in women with T1D who use hormonal contraception. She wonders if women exercise less to avoid unpredictable drops in blood sugar because they have different insulin or carbohydrate needs during exercise and, furthermore, if these needs vary throughout the menstrual cycle.

She is highly motivated to pursue this area of research and hopes to fill a void in this field. “Being able to exercise without low blood sugar is important, so we need to understand how blood sugar changes with exercise in women with T1D,” says Momeni.

Zeinab Momeni is supervised by Jane Yardley in the Augustana Faculty. Her fellowship has been funded by the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation through the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute.