A new study published in International Journal of Eating Disorders found vitamin D deficiency to be very prevalent among adolescents with eating disorders.
Patients with eating disorders are at high risk for osteoporosis and other bone-related disorders. Osteoporosis is when bones become very weak over time so that even a slight fall can cause a fracture.
This increased risk comes from eating less, consuming low amounts of important nutrients, and having subsequent low body weight.
In females, low body weight can cause the body to stop producing estrogen which contributes to loss of bone density. People with anorexia, an eating disorder characterized by intense food restriction, the body produces an excess of the hormone cortisol which is known to contribute to bone loss.
This is especially important in children and adolescents as it is a time of growth in which bone development is extremely important.
Knowing vitamin D’s role in bone health and in reducing the risk of osteoporosis and osteomalacia, researchers from Israel recently conducted a study on vitamin D levels in adolescents with eating disorders.
They recruited 87 adolescents aged 14 to 18 years old who had anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or other eating disorders. They measured the vitamin D levels, bone mineral density as well as other nutritional markers.
The researchers found that 83% of the patients had vitamin D levels lower than 32 ng/ml, the commonly determined level in which bone growth is maintained. They also found that lumbar spine bone mineral density was low.
“Given the risk of osteoporosis in this population, 25(OH)D levels found in this group may not offer optimal bone protection,” the researchers conclude.
“Vitamin D levels should be routinely checked and supplementation should be administered as required.”