Study shows why people with anorexia are at higher risk for osteoporosis

Recent research reveals that people with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa have excess levels of fat in their bone marrow, which could explain why those with the condition lose bone mass and sometimes develop osteoporosis. The disorder, which affects mainly young women, leads to extremely low body weight and an obsessive fear of weight gain.

For the study, MRI scans were taken of the knees of 40 girls, who averaged 16 years old. The participants included 20 women with anorexia and 20 who were healthy. The girls with an eating disorder had higher fat content and less than half as much healthy red marrow in their knees, the researchers found. The difference was also seen in the lower thighbone and upper shinbone.

"Bone formation is very low in girls with anorexia, and that's a particular problem because they are growing adolescents who should be maximally forming bones," said lead researcher Dr Catherine Gordon, an endocrinologist and director of the Bone Health Program at Children's Hospital Boston. "But because of the hormonal alterations induced by malnutrition, the bone marrow stops yielding the needed cells to form bone. Instead, the stem cells are pushed toward fat formation."



The findings were published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

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