The Relationship Between Anorexia And Osteoporosis

The Relationship Between Anorexia And Osteoporosis

Research has revealed that there is a direct relationship between anorexia nervosa and osteoporosis. Because anorexia is most prevalent among adolescent girls, the possibility of developing osteoporosis as a result of anorexia is drastically heightened in this group.

The Relationship Explained

Osteoporosis causes brittle bones of decreased density, increasing the possibility of a breakage or fracture. Those who suffer from primary osteoporosis have a metabolic bone disease, whereas those with secondary osteoporosis can obtain the condition via a numerous other chronic diseases, such as anorexia nervosa.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which the person stops eating entirely or eats very little, due to a fear of gaining weight, or in hopes of losing weight. Anorexia most commonly begins in women and men during their teen years, because there is immense perceived media and actual peer pressure to “fit in” and be thin. Because adolescence is a crucial developmental stage for both physical and emotional development, adolescent onset of anorexia is particularly problematic for the long-term health of bones.

How Anorexia Causes Brittle Bones

  • Malnutrition: Anorexia typically results in malnourishment, which can weaken the body in general. Without crucial nutrients in their diet like iron (a deficiency could cause anemia) and calcium, patients with anorexia commonly develop brittle bones, leading to osteoporosis.
  • Time: Over time, as many as 40 percent of people with anorexia develop osteoporosis. It’s safe to assume that someone who suffers from anorexia for an extended period of time is more likely to develop osteoporosis than the general population, because of anorexia patients’ prolonged deficiency of calcium and other nutrients. However, studies have shown that osteopenia (decreased bone density between normal and osteoporosis) can even develop in the early stages of anorexia. In fact, as many as 90 percent of people with anorexia develop osteopenia, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Because anorexia tends to strike teenagers who are in such a crucial development period, these individuals put themselves at a greater risk for potentially developing anorexia in the long term.
  • Cortisol: Cortisol is an adrenal hormone, which means that it is manufactured by the adrenal glands. It is common for those with anorexia to produce excessive levels of cortisol. This hormone has been linked to causing bone loss.
  • Estrogen and testosterone: Women who have anorexia are also at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, due to the low levels of estrogen that they produce being at a low weight from the condition. Decreased amounts of estrogen have been linked to a corresponding loss of bone density. The same effect applies to men as well; men with low levels of testosterone are at an increased risk for osteopenia and, eventually, osteoporosis.

If you or someone you love is exhibiting extreme weight loss and severe calorie restriction, it is vital that you seek medical attention as soon as possible. Anorexia is a difficult condition to overcome, but many intervention and treatment options are available. With support, you or your loved one can make a full recovery and lead a healthy life.

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