Preliminary findings on the effects of sex hormones on bone metabolism in anorexia nervosa

J Adolesc Health. 1993 Jun;14(4):319-24. doi: 10.1016/1054-139x(93)90181-n.


We performed tetracycline double-labeled bone biopsies and serial bone densitometry on four patients with anorexia nervosa to determine the effects of various conditions of sex hormone replacement and body weight status. We found negligible bone mineral apposition rate in two patients with anorexia nervosa who were taking estrogen and progestin pills while weighing only 79% of normal. However, bone mineral apposition rate was normal in two patients with anorexia nervosa who took no sex hormones and remained amenorrheic while weighing 87% of normal. Histomorphometric analysis revealed a decrease in intracortical trabecular area by 57% and an increase in active osteoblastic surface area by 300%, comparing the subjects who were taking hormone replacement to those who were not. There was no direct evidence of increased resorption in any subject. Six months after biopsy, the two subjects taking sex hormones decreased lumbar bone mineral density by 1.9%, while the two taking no sex hormones remained amenorrheic, but increased bone mineral density by 1.3%. Therefore, we propose that sex hormone therapy in the presence of persistently low body weight might be of limited benefit for bone mineral apposition and density.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amenorrhea / complications
  • Anorexia Nervosa / complications
  • Anorexia Nervosa / drug therapy*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / metabolism*
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Densitometry
  • Energy Intake
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy*
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Estrogens / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Progestins / pharmacology*
  • Progestins / therapeutic use
  • Tetracycline


  • Estrogens
  • Progestins
  • Tetracycline