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Pediatrics. 1990 Sep;86(3):440-7.

Decreased bone density in adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa.

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Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305.


Osteoporosis develops in women with chronic anorexia nervosa. To determine whether bone mass is reduced in younger patients as well, bone density was studied in a group of adolescent patients with anorexia nervosa. With single- and dual-photon absorptiometry, a comparison was made of bone mineral density of midradius, lumbar spine, and whole body in 18 girls (12 to 20 years of age) with anorexia nervosa and 25 healthy control subjects of comparable age. Patients had significantly lower lumbar vertebral bone density than did control subjects (0.830 +/- 0.140 vs 1.054 +/- 0.139 g/cm2) and significantly lower whole body bone mass (0.700 +/- 0.130 vs 0.955 +/- 0.130 g/cm2). Midradius bone density was not significantly reduced. Of 18 patients, 12 had bone density greater than 2 standard deviations less than normal values for age. The diagnosis of anorexia nervosa had been made less than 1 year earlier for half of these girls. Body mass index correlated significantly with bone mass in girls who were not anorexic (P less than .05, .005, and .0001 for lumbar, radius, and whole body, respectively). Bone mineral correlated significantly with body mass index in patients with anorexia nervosa as well. In addition, age at onset and duration of anorexia nervosa, but not calcium intake, activity level, or duration of amenorrhea correlated significantly with bone mineral density. It was concluded that important deficits of bone mass occur as a frequent and often early complication of anorexia nervosa in adolescence. Whole body is considerably more sensitive than midradius bone density as a measure of cortical bone loss in this illness.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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