The link between Osteoporosis and Eating Disorders

The link between Osteoporosis and Eating Disorders

What are the Osteoporosis Risk Factors and eating disorders?

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become porous and their density to decrease making them brittle and more susceptible to fractures and breaks (1). and affects more than 54 million Americans.

There are a number of risk factors that make a person more susceptible to developing osteoporosis, and its sibling osteopenia, or bone mineral loss. Those risk factors include:

  • Increasing age
  • Gender
  • Heredity and family history
  • Race
  • Weight and body size
  • Dietary issues
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Prescription drug use
  • Other chemical use
  • Concurrent medical issues

Some of these factors, such as age, sex, and race cannot be changed. White and Asian women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than males or women of other racial groups. However, some factors like hormonal imbalances and chemical use can be controlled, or at least directly influenced.

Concurrent medical issues are the most problematic of all the factors because other diseases can have an exponential effect on bone density. Active or previous eating disorders can have a significant long-term impact on bone health.

What are the Most Common Eating Disorders?

There are many types of eating disorders, but two of the most common ones are bulimia and anorexia nervosa (2).

Anorexia is a condition where a person becomes obsessed with being thin. They believe themselves to be overweight no matter what the evidence is to the contrary. People who suffer from anorexia will strictly regulate their eating habits and structure their lives around preventing even the slightest of weight gain. Often times this results in starvation, malnutrition, or micronutrient deficiency.

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Bulimia is very similar to anorexia, except the person who suffers from bulimia nervosa will go through periods where they binge eat to the point of physical pain before purging themselves of their intake by forcing themselves to vomit. This vicious cycle causes a host of damaging effects to the body, including stripping away a person’s stomach and esophageal lining.

Other types of eating disorders include:

  • Pica (craving inedible objects)
  • Rumination (pattern of regurgitation and re-swallowing)
  • Avoidant/restrictive intake disorders
  • Night eating

The Effects of Eating Disorders on Bone Density

Both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa have cumulative effects that result in long-term damage to the body. Any disorder that affects your intake will inevitably affect your nutrition.

Lack of proper nutrition poses two significant risks to the health of your bones (3). If you don’t eat a well-balanced diet, your body won’t receive the vitamins and minerals necessary to carry out the complex and essential functions that it needs to thrive.

Bones retain their strength by continually generating new cells as the old cells are reabsorbed and recycled by bone cells called osteocytes. When the production of new bone cells falls behind the reabsorption of old cells, bone density weakens.

In order for the body to carry out the renewal process, it requires a regular intake of vitamins and minerals. Eating disorders deprive the body of these necessary materials, promoting the onset of osteoporosis.

Eating disorders also have a negative effect on your body’s hormonal balance. Malnutrition decreases a woman’s estrogen levels and can even cause interruptions to her menstrual cycle.

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In turn, low estrogen causes osteocytes to slow down their bone-producing functions. Malnutrition also prompts the brain to produce other hormones, such as cortisol, which can have a detrimental effect on bone density.

Prevention and Intervention

This incredibly common disease affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. There are already so many factors that women must take into account as they age, including exercise, well-balanced nutrition, and the side effects of prescription medications. Ostego can help!

We suggest tons of easy-to-follow recipes and tips for healthy eating. And if you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, please reach out to the National Eating Disorders hotline and get them the help they need before they put themselves at further risk for developing bone density problems(4).


1. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Osteoporosis.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Post date unknown.

2. Alina Petre. “6 Common Types of Eating Disorders (and Their Symptoms).” Healthline Media a Red Ventures Company. October 30th, 2019.

3. Meadows Ranch Staff. “Bone Loss From Eating Disorders.” Eating Disorder Hope. July 2nd, 2018.

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