Being thin can turn bones brittle

By • Published: February 26th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

There’s no such thing as being too thin. That’s how the adage goes, and judging from the lithe [i as in ‘eye’] looks of most models on the runway, that’s how most people see it, too.

Having an extremely thin physique may mean you can fit into size zero jeans, but new research shows it can actually be a bad break for your bones. According to findings from a French study, underweight women are more at risk for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis and tend to have more bone loss than normal-weight women.

And it doesn’t seem to matter whether women are underweight because of an eating disorder or if they are naturally thin.

Past studies have linked anorexia to low bone density and increased risk for osteoporosis. After comparing bone density in naturally thin and anorexic women, French researchers discovered that naturally underweight women were just as likely to have low bone density as the anorexic women were.

Malnutrition seems a likely contributor to low bone density in anorexic women. Studies have shown that cutting calories without exercising can lead to bone loss.

But the mystery is murkier for naturally thin women. Experts say genetics could play a role. Or it could be a consequence of not carrying enough weight on bone-building areas in the body.

For most women, the message is simple: Talk to your doctor about your risks now. Osteoporosis often isn’t detected until the bones are already weak.