Eating Disorders and Weight Loss Diets

Being underweight is a strong risk factor for osteoporosis. Very low body weight is associated with lower peak bone mass development in young people, and increased bone loss and risk of fractures in older persons.Anorexia is a strong risk factor for osteoporosis

  • Weight loss diets, especially if undertaken repeatedly, jeopardize bone health because the body is not getting enough important nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and protein – which are necessary to maintain bone and muscle strength.
  • Young girls and women are at particular risk of becoming underweight due to excessive concerns with staying slim. Excessive weight loss is also sometimes seen in dancers or athletes who overtrain and do not compensate with enough caloric intake.

Anorexia Nervosa

A special concern is anorexia nervosa. This is a psychophysiological disorder, usually occurring in young women, that is characterized in part by a persistent unwillingness to eat and severe weight loss.

The disorder usually begins during adolescence – the time of life when good nutrition is important in order to gain the highest possible peak bone mass. Besides depriving the body of essential bone-building nutrients, an anorexic patient's extreme thinness also results in oestrogen deficiency and amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation).

The oestrogen deficiency in younger women contributes to bone loss in much the same way that estrogen deficiency after menopause does. Since people with anorexia are at high risk of developing osteoporosis, it is important that particular attention be paid to their skeletal health. In order to prevent and/or treat osteoporosis, they need to be identified early, and given appropriate support and counseling.