Anorexia Nervosa

Lipid Levels in Anorexia Nervosa

International Journal of Eating Disorders
By Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS


Objective: Anorexia nervosa is a chronic disorder characterized by the patient's refusal to maintain body weight and a myriad of medical complications. Two frequently cited and poorly understood complications are hypercholesterolemia and hypercarotenemia. We therefore measured fasting cholesterol and beta-carotene levels in a cohort of moderately severe anorectics.

Method: All subjects were female and met DSM-IV criteria for anorexia nervosa. Lipid profiles and beta-carotene levels were determined in 23 female anorexics.

Results: The mean total cholesterol for this group of anorectics was 179.3 mg/dl. Low-density lipoprotein values (LDL) ranged from 47 to 173, with a mean of 104.1 mg/dl. The mean high-density lipoprotein value (HDL) was 51.5 mg/dl. Beta-carotene levels were all normal.

Discussion: We conclude that total and LDL cholesterol in anorexia are well within the range of normal, and HDL levels are favorably high. Further, hypercarotenemia was not associated with anorexia nervosa.

Written by

Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS

Dr. Philip S. Mehler began his career at Denver Health more than 35 years ago and was formerly its Chief of Internal Medicine and then Denver Health’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) until he was promoted…

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In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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