Girls with anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder causing people to obsess about weight and what they eat) can have stunted growth and may not reach their full height potential, according to a new study.

The study was published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Anorexia nervosa is a condition in which a person loses an unhealthy amount of weight on purpose by dieting, sometimes along with excessive exercise, binge eating, or purging behaviours. People with anorexia nervosa have an intense fear of gaining weight and a disturbed body image (such as thinking they are fat even when they are very underweight).

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“Our findings emphasise the importance of early and intensive intervention aiming at normalization of body weight, which may result in improved growth and allow patients to reach their full height potential,” said the study’s corresponding author, Dalit Modan-Moses, M.D., of The Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, in Tel Hashomer, Israel.

“We suggest that the height impairment is a marker for other complications of anorexia nervosa affecting the person’s overall health in several aspects: bone health, cognitive function, and problems with pregnancy and childbirth later in life. Early diagnosis and treatment could prevent, or at least reduce, the risk of these complications.”

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The researchers studied 255 girls around 15 years old who were hospitalized for anorexia nervosa. They measured their height at the time of admission, discharge and at adult height and found it was lower than expected. Adult height was significantly shorter than expected when compared to the genetic potential according to the average of the patient’s mother and father’s heights.

“This study may have implications for the management of malnutrition in adolescents with other chronic diseases in order to achieve optimal adult height and bone health,” Modan-Moses said.

Other authors include Amit Yaroslavsky, Orit Pinhas-Hamiel, Yael Levy-Shraga, Brigitte Kochavi, Adi Enoch-Levy, Anat Toledano and Daniel Stein of the Chaim Sheba Medical Center and the Tel Aviv University in Israel; and Sharon Iron-Segev of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. (ANI)

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