Why Fat Cells are High in the Bone Marrow of Anorexia Nervosa Patients

According to the researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston, anorexia nervosa patients are found to have high levels of fat in their bone marrow. Results of their study were published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. It was funded by the Children’s Hospital Radiology Foundation, Inc and the National Institutes of Health.

How Anorexia Nervosa and Excess Fat in the Bone Marrow are Related

  • Earlier studies carried out in experimental mice confirmed that people suffering from this eating disorder have hormonal imbalances.
  • These imbalances caused the special cells known as stem cells in the bone marrow to get converted to fat cells instead of forming more productive bone cells.
  • These findings explained why people suffering from this disorder were more prone to bone loss, fractures and osteoporosis.
  • The research study found that the number of fat cells was higher in the knee bone marrow and there were less than half the amount of healthy red blood cells in young women (around 16 years of age on average) suffering from this condition.
  • The conversion of stem cells into fat cells instead of bone cells is believed to be the body’s attempt to provide these patients with warmth under low body temperature or hypothermia.
  • It is common in the patients suffering from this eating disorder to suffer from hypothermia and fat cells are produced and deposited more in these patients to provide energy or warmth.

How Anorexia Nervosa and Obesity are Related

Between 8 and 13 cases per 100,000 persons per year are reported to suffer from this eating disorder. Nearly 90 percent of people affected by it are females. Young adolescent women, especially belonging to the age group 15-19 years (making 40 percent of the cases), are more often diagnosed with this condition.

Anorexic patients do not maintain a healthy body as their minds is plagued with fears of putting on more weight. Such notions develop in their minds because of a distorted self image and lowered self esteem. There are several similarities between obese and anorexic people. Both these groups think of food all the time, are depressed, and face the threat of several medical complications.

For help with eating disorders please contact: The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). Headquartered in Naperville, Illinois; they are a non-profit organization which aims at fighting this eating disorder, among others, in the United States.


Children’s Hospital Boston: Research: Anorexics Store Fat in their Bone Marrow

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

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