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Cortisol Linked to Bone Loss in Women With Anorexia

Also linked to depression and anxiety in women with anorexia and hypothalamic amenorrhea

MONDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Cortisol levels are higher in women with anorexia nervosa and hypothalamic amenorrhea than healthy women, and are strongly associated with depression, anxiety and bone loss, according to a study published online Oct. 16 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Elizabeth A. Lawson, M.D., and colleagues from Harvard Medical School in Boston examined whether cortisol levels were associated with bone loss and mood disturbance in 18 amenorrheic women with anorexia nervosa, 13 normal-weight women with functional hypothalamic amenorrhea, and 21 healthy women.

The researchers found that women with anorexia nervosa and hypothalamic amenorrhea had lower bone mineral density than healthy women. These two groups also had higher average cortisol levels and higher depression and anxiety scores, with the hypothalamic amenorrhea group being intermediate between women with anorexia nervosa and healthy women. Cortisol levels were strongly associated with depression and anxiety scores and negatively associated with bone mineral density scores.

"Hypercortisolemia is a potential mediator of bone loss and mood disturbance in these disorders," Lawson and colleagues conclude. "It is unclear whether hypercortisolemia is secondary or underlies the psychiatric pathology in these disorders."

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