Paying the price in brittle bones


If there is one image that startles teenagers with eating distress enough to make them seek help, it's a picture of their brittle bones.

"One bone density scan is worth months of psychotherapy," asserts Prof Moira O'Brien of the Department of Anatomy at Trinity College, Dublin. Having the bones of a 60-yearold woman is part of the price teenage girls pay when they starve themselves so severely that menstruation stops. Without the female hormone, oestrogen, the body cannot build bone. Sixty per cent of bone density is laid down between the ages of 14 and 25, the same years that eating distress tends to strike. When bones do not develop properly, the risk of hip fracture is high and 30 per cent of people who fracture their hips die within six months from pulmonary embolism.

Prof O'Brien has discovered that treating sufferers with the contraceptive pill or HRT can help prevent bone damage. She is seeking more young women with anorexia and bulimia to participate in a free trial which will prove that hormone treatment can help build bone density.

If you are interested, call her at 01-6081182.