Anorexia and Bone Health

Researcher links anorexia to early-onset osteoporosis in women.

Anorexia can have devastating health consequences, including putting women at risk for early-onset osteoporosis.

According to Kathryn Teng, a personal health expert at Cast Western Reserve University School of Medicine and director of Cleveland Clinic’s office of Integration of Personalized Healthcare, more than half of young women with anorexia nervosa will develop osteoporosis before menopause.

Anorexia most commonly strikes during adolescence, a key period for bone development. Women gain between 40 to 60 percent of their bone mass during their teenage years, and Teng estimates that even a 10 percent decrease in bone growth at this age can triple the risk of fracture later in life.

Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness in adolescents, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Besides malnutrition, the disorder contributes to premenopausal osteoporosis by disrupting hormone levels related to bone growth, according to Teng.