NUTRITIONAL HOTLINE: Blood Cholesterol Levels & Anorexia Nervosa

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NUTRITIONAL HOTLINE: Blood Cholesterol Levels & Anorexia Nervosa

Q: Why are blood cholesterol levels high in patients with anorexia nervosa?

A: It has been reported that up to 50 percent of people with anorexia nervosa have elevated cholesterol levels. Since people with anorexia do not consume diets high in saturated fat, other mechanisms of action are thought to be involved. While no one knows for sure, it is believed that low levels of estrogen and thyroid hormone, and elevated levels of cortisol may contribute to the increased levels of low density lipoprotein. Other potential mechanisms include decreased excretion of bile acids and decreased turnover of cholesterol in the body.

While the cause of high cholesterol levels in anorexia is uncertain, what is agreed upon is the treatment. Clinicians agree that cholesterol lowering medications should not be prescribed, as cholesterol levels almost always return to normal when the person is weight restored and renourished. In the rare cases where cholesterol levels stay elevated after recovery, the patient should address the issue with his or her physician.

by Diane Keddy, MS, RD
Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Winter 2003-2004 Volume 2, Number 2
©2003 Gürze Books

About the Author

Diane Keddy, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian with a private practice in Newport Beach, CA.

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