Women with anorexia are prone to develop brittle bones, but medical treatment either with the bone-strengthening drug etidronate or with calcium and vitamin D effectively reverses the degree of osteoporosis, according to a new study.
Dr. Toshihiro Nakahara, of Kagoshima University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Science, Japan, and colleagues studied 41 women (average age 26 years) with anorexia nervosa. The subjects were randomly assigned to take etidronate, or calcium and vitamin D, or an inactive placebo.
To assess bone density, the researchers measured the speed of sound in the shinbone, at the start of the study and after 3 months of treatment.
Compared to the placebo group, there was a significant increase in the bone density in both the etidronate and calcium-and-vitamin D groups. No significant differences were observed between these actively treated groups, the team reports in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
“To prevent bone loss and fracture risk in patients with anorexia nervosa, it is very important, albeit challenging, to restore normal weight,” Nakahara and colleagues explain. “Thus, we believe that active treatment of bone mineral density is essential to maintain quality of life in anorexia nervosa patients over the long term.”
SOURCE: International Journal of Eating Disorders, January 2006.
Revision date: July 3, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD