Anorexia nervosa is a severe mental disorder that is characterised by dietary restriction, low weight and widespread endocrine abnormalities. Whilst the importance of weight restoration has been recognised in recent guidelines, the significance of normalising body fat mass has received less attention. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that a minimum of 20.5% body fat mass is necessary for regular menses in women with anorexia nervosa of reproductive age. This has significant implications for both treatment and research. It is important to help the patient and carers understand that a certain level of body fat percentage is essential for optimal health, such as the return of menstruation. Further research is needed into how best to use this information to help motivation to change as part of treatment. The benefit of the return of menstruation goes beyond improved fertility: it signals the normalisation of sexual hormones, which have a widespread impact on the body and multiple pathways in the brain. Given the complex functions of adipocytes in various organs of the body, the metabolic effects of the normal body fat tissue should not be underestimated. Further research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms behind the link between minimum body fat mass, menstruation, bone and brain health in anorexia nervosa. J Popul Ther Clin Pharmacol. 2019 Sep 4;26(3):e9-e13. doi: 10.15586/jptcp.v26i3.629.
The Eating Disorder Journal(February 2020, Vol. 21, No.2)