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Even years after a person is diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, they have twice the risk of bone fractures as their peers without the eating disorder, new study findings from Denmark show.
The findings suggest that damage caused to bones by eating disorders may be permanent, according to a report in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
However, it is possible that patients in the study were still struggling with the eating disorder, which may have kept bones from regaining strength, the report indicates.
Previous studies have found that people with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia can suffer from weakened bones because of poor nutrition. Experts say that this can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fracture.
In the current investigation, Peter Vestergaard of the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark and colleagues looked at 2,149 people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, 1,294 people with bulimia nervosa and 942 people with another type of eating disorder. All of the patients – more than 90% female – were compared to a group of over 4,000 healthy people.
Compared to those without an eating disorder, patients were about twice as likely to break a bone after their diagnosis and the risk remained elevated for up to 10 years after diagnosis. The fracture risk was also elevated in those with other eating disorders, but not as dramatically as in patients with anorexia.
The researchers believe anorexia may cause permanent damage to the skeleton, which is later compounded by the loss of bone that can occur with aging. On the other hand, the researchers point out that even after diagnosis and treatment, the eating disorder may not have been completely reversed, resulting in continued nutritional deficits and further decreases in bone mass.
“In conclusion,” the authors write, “an increased risk of fractures is present many years after diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, and the group of other eating disorders. These findings call for more awareness of potential skeletal complications linked to eating disorders in general.”
SOURCE: International Journal of Eating Disorders 2002
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