Irregular Periods in Teens Can Be a Warning Sign of Bulimia

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
July/August 2008 Volume 19, Number 4
©2008 Gürze Books

Irregular menstrual cycles in teenagers may be a warning sign of bulimia, according to a nationwide study of nearly 3000 teenage girls (J Adoles Health 2008; 42:450). When S. Bryn Austin, ScD, and a team of researchers from Children’s Hospital, Boston, analyzed data from high school students who participated in the 2000 National Eating Disorders Screening Program, they found that girls who vomited to control their weight once to three times a month were 1.6 times more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles than were girls who didn’t report self-induced vomiting. Girls who induced vomiting once a week or more often were 3.2 times more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles than girls who never induced vomiting.

Overall, 12% of high school girls in the screening program reported that they self-induced vomiting at least once a month during the three previous month, but only 16.5% had ever been treated for an eating disorder. Dr. Austin and colleagues noted that if family and clinicians can recognize warning signs like the irregular periods, it might be possible to get girls the right kind of treatment, which will help head off a host of health problems, including low bone density, stress fractures, and osteoporosis later in life.

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