Are health, wellbeing, and iron status influenced by menstrual cycle status in healthy premenopausal females within New Zealand?


   College of Health

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

About the Project

Recent research suggests up to 55% of females have early-stage iron deficiency with rates drastically elevated in Māori, Asian, and Pacifica females. In premenopausal females, regular menstrual blood loss is a major risk factor for iron deficiency. Females that experience heavy menstrual bleeding are at 5–6 x higher risk of an iron deficiency diagnosis. A regular menstrual cycle is a key marker for health in females, yet changes to cycle characteristics (heavy menstrual bleeding) and reproductive hormone levels (subclinical ovulatory disturbances) may occur in healthy premenopausal women in response to physical (e.g., dietary) and psychological stressors (e.g., dietary restraint). The prevalence of subclinical ovulatory disturbances in healthy females may range from 16 to 79%. Few studies have considered if changes to healthy female menstrual cycle status (i.e., subclinical ovulatory disturbances) cause heavy menstrual bleeding and subsequently iron deficiency. Therefore, to truly understand the risk of iron deficiency in regularly menstruating females, an understanding of changes to menstrual cycle status in response to physical and mental stress is required. The study design is a 6-month prospective cohort study in 165 healthy premenopausal females, 18-35 years of age. This project is the first research project that aims to understand how changes to the menstrual cycle may increase the risk of iron deficiency in females. The results of this study will be the first to consider unique characteristics of the menstrual cycle and associations with rates of iron deficiency. The research design will provide a framework for future researchers on how to conduct acute and longitudinal health research that takes into consideration the unique physiology of menstruating females.

The successful applicant will get to work with a strong supervisory team based at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. The supervisory team will be led by Dr Claire Badenhorst (Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Sport Science) who has research expertise in iron regulation and female physiology. Other members of the supervisory team include Professor Pam von Hurst (expert in Nutrition, and experience in large research trials), Associate Professor Kathryn Beck (expert in Nutrition and dietary pattern analysis), Dr Stacy Sims (expert in applied Physiology, women’s health and performance) and Dr Sarah Beable (Medical expert for support of the project).

About the Studentship

The project is funded by the Health Research Council New Zealand, but this does not include the PhD scholarship. Details on how to apply for a Massey PhD scholarship can be found here. Interested individuals are encouraged to set up a meeting with the supervisory team and following this meeting, additional details will be provided on how to apply for the Massey PhD scholarship The project will be completed in Auckland New Zealand, based out of Massey University. Prospective candidates must demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 3 years.

Desired Attributes and Qualifications

Applicants must demonstrate experience and interest in research methods and project management. The University recommendations for a PhD scholarship are for the applicant to have a grade point average (GPA) of 7.5 or higher, in a Master’s or Honours degree in Nutrition, Exercise and Sport Science or Physiology.

The supervisory team and university will review the applicant’s qualities, skills, and background to determine if they are suited to the project and current research team and will be able to complete the project and their PhD in a successful and timely manner.

Expressions of interest and how to apply: Interested applicants should direct initial queries about the PhD to Dr Claire Badenhorst:

Applicants should include a CV and a 250-word outline of skills they would bring to the project, previous experience of research methods, evidence of their commitment to project completion and interest in female health and performance


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