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Osteoporos Int. 2000;11(2):141-5.

Anorexia nervosa: slow regain of bone mass.

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  • 1Medical Faculty, University of Trondheim, Norway.


In a retrospective study of women aged 18-30 years, aimed at assessing factors associated with peak bone mass (PBM), 13 of 239 study cases reported having had anorexia nervosa. The mean total femoral and lumbar bone mineral density (BMD) values were not significantly lower in women who had had anorexia than in the pooled group (mean Z-scores of -0.60 and -0.48). Cases with less than 6 years since the anorexia had on average a present weight 5.7 kg less than their premorbid weights, while cases with more than 6 years since the eating disorder had an average weight 22.5 kg above their pre-morbid weights. The cases who had not regained their weight had BMD values significantly lower than the pooled material (mean Z-scores -1.15 and -0.9 in the lumbar spine and total femur respectively). Those who had regained their weight had BMD values as predicted from their present anthropometric data, while those who had not regained their weight had BMD values that were substantially below that predicted from their present weight. Anorexia nervosa seems to be associated with a low BMD which is even lower than that which can be predicted from the weight loss alone. This suggests that weight loss and other factors, such as menstrual dysfunction and estrogen deficiency, are independent and thus additive causes of bone loss in anorexia nervosa. Recovery of BMD seems slow, but the BMD may become as predicted from the anthropometric data after restoration of body weight and menses. The potential for recovery of BMD seems intact for several years after menarche.

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