A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has found that girls battling anorexia nervosa—an eating disorder—may suffer stunted growth and may not achieve the full potential of the height that they could grow up to.

Dalit Modan-Moses, corresponding author of the study, said in a statement, "Our findings emphasize 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."

Several Risks and Complications

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, and/or purging behaviors. 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).

Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia Nervosa Picpedia.org

Modan-Moses added, "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."

Implications for Management of Malnutrition

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.

(With inputs from agencies)