Associations between bone mineral density, body composition and amenorrhoea in females with eating disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Mariana P. Lopes*, Lauren Robinson, Brendon Stubbs, Marle dos Santos Alvarenga, Ligia Araújo Martini, Iain C. Campbell, Ulrike Schmidt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Lower bone mineral density (BMD) increases the risk of osteoporosis in individuals with eating disorders (EDs), particularly women with anorexia nervosa (AN), making them susceptible to pain and fractures throughout adulthood. In AN, low weight, hypothalamic amenorrhoea, and longer illness duration are established risk factors for low BMD, and in people with other EDs a history of AN seems to be an important risk factor for low BMD. Purpose: To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of BMD in individuals with EDs, including AN, bulimia nervosa (BN), binge-eating disorder (BED) and other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED) compared to healthy controls (HC). Methods: Following PRISMA guidelines, electronic databases were reviewed and supplemented with a literature search until 2/2022 of publications measuring BMD (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or dual photon absorptiometry) in females with any current ED diagnosis and a HC group. Primary outcomes were spine, hip, femur and total body BMD. Explanatory variables were fat mass, lean mass and ED clinical characteristics (age, illness duration, body mass index (BMI), amenorrhoea occurrence and duration, and oral contraceptives use). Results: Forty-three studies were identified (N = 4163 women, mean age 23.4 years, min: 14.0, max: 37.4). No study with individuals with BED met the inclusion criteria. BMD in individuals with AN (total body, spine, hip, and femur), with BN (total body and spine) and with OSFED (spine) was lower than in HC. Meta-regression analyses of women with any ED (AN, BN or OSFED) (N = 2058) showed low BMI, low fat mass, low lean mass and being amenorrhoeic significantly associated with lower total body and spine BMD. In AN, only low fat mass was significantly associated with low total body BMD. Conclusion: Predictors of low BMD were low BMI, low fat mass, low lean mass and amenorrhoea, but not age or illness duration. In people with EDs, body composition measurement and menstrual status, in addition to BMI, are likely to provide a more accurate assessment of individual risk to low BMD and osteoporosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number173
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Amenorrhoea
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Body composition
  • Bone mineral density
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Eating disorder
  • Fat mass
  • Lean body mass
  • Osteoporosis


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