Both Men and Women With Anorexia Face Heightened Bone Fracture Risk

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Eating disorders like anorexia can lead to a variety of adverse effects, ranging from fatigue and dizziness to liver problems, seizures, and death. One such effect of eating disorders is a heightened risk for bone fractures, as the body isn’t getting enough nutrients to properly fortify the bones.

Increased risk of fracture is a well-documented side effect of both anorexia and bulimia, but few have examined whether the issue affects men and women differently. That is finally changing, however, thanks to the work of Jason M. Nagata and colleagues from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

According to a new study from the team of researchers found that both men and women with anorexia nervosa face and increased risk for fractures. Men over 40 were affected by the increased risk, while women of all ages with anorexia were more likely to fracture bones compared to people without eating disorders.

The researchers examined a large data set collected from the United Kingdom, including 9,239 women and 556 men with anorexia, along with nearly 98,000 control participants with no record of eating disorders.

The results show that girls and women with anorexia had increased fracture risk, particularly around the hip or femur and the pelvis. Meanwhile, men over 40 were more likely to fracture a vertebrae.

Overall, the report published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research implies lack of proper nutrition has a larger effect on bone health than gender differences, and disease severity is the strongest indicator for how likely a person with anorexia is to be affected. The team also recommends that those with more severe cases of anorexia should undergo bone scans to test their bone density.

“[Anorexia nervosa] and fractures remain formidable health problems with broad public health implications worldwide. … We found that males with [anorexia nervosa] had an increased risk of fractures at the vertebra and that males over 40 years of age with [anorexia nervosa] had an increased overall fracture risk compared to males without an eating disorder,” the researchers wrote.

“Females with [anorexia nervosa] had increased fracture risk across all ages and nearly all anatomic sites with a more than fourfold higher risk at the hip/femur and pelvis. Sex differences in fracture risk among adolescents with [anorexia nervosa] may be behaviorally mediated.”

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