Have you thought about your bones much, or the correlation between bone density and eating disorders? Often, women hear about the importance of getting enough calcium because the bones become very brittle as they get older. But, do you (as a women or a man) think much about the way your diet is impacting your bone health? In most cases, you may not. Eating disorders of all types including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, can directly impact the health of your bones including bone growth and bone density. And, this can have a long term impact on your overall health.

It May Not Be the First Thing

Most of the time, individuals with moderate to severe eating disorders face more pressing and immediate health consequences such as needing stabilization to occur of the heart’s function, improving blood sugar levels, and handling the impact on gastro-intestinal bleeds. However, there is growing evidence that even infrequent eating disorder instances can lead to long term impacts on the health of the bones.

What Happens to Your Bones

Individuals who are in the early stages of an eating disorder often suffer from osteopenia. As the condition progresses, the bone impact does as well leading to osteoporosis. In both cases, the body’s lack of nutrients cause it to begin pulling those nutrients from the stored reserves in the bones. This is what commonly happens to women and men while they age. However, those who have eating disorders speed up the process. The outcome can be very limiting and often includes:

  • Disability and limited use of bones
  • Loss of stature, a loss of height
  • Chronic pain
  • Bone fractures

Effects Over Time

The connection between bone density and eating disorders will grow stronger over time. This will worsen until the bones become so frail that they easily break. Research indicates that about 75 percent of women who are anorexic will have some level of bone mineral deficiency. Many do not know it until they fall and break a bone. The body’s direct response to a lack of nutrients caused by eating disorders is that the body’s core temperature falls, the heart slows down, and estrogen levels fall.

This leads to early onset of osteoporosis. If you are not sure how this is impacting your health and well being, it may be time to talk to your doctor about it. What you may find is that your body’s bone density is directly impacted by your eating disorder, putting you at risk of frail bones and even disability over your lifetime.