Body fat redistribution after weight gain in women with anorexia nervosa

Laurel Mayer, B. Timothy Timothy Walsh, Richard N. Pierson, Steven B. Heymsfield, Dympna Gallagher, Jack Wang, Michael K. Parides, Rudolph L. Leibel, Michelle P. Warren, Erin Killory, Deborah Glasofer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Background: Body image distortions are a core feature of anorexia nervosa (AN). Increasing evidence suggests that the fat distribution immediately after weight restoration in patients with AN differs from the distribution typical of healthy adult women. Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess body fat distribution before and shortly after normalization of weight in women with AN. Design: Body composition and fat distribution were assessed by anthropometry, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and whole-body magnetic resonance imaging in 29 women with AN before and after weight normalization and at a single time point in 15 female control subjects. Hormone concentrations were also evaluated in patients and control subjects. Results: During ≈10.1 ± 2.9 wk (range: 4-17.3 wk) of treatment, patients with AN gained 12.2 ± 3.6 kg, and refed weight (54.1 ± 4.2 kg) did not differ significantly from that of control subjects (54.7 ± 4.4 kg). Waist-to-hip circumference ratio (P < 0.006), total trunk fat (P < 0.003), visceral adipose tissue (P < 0.006), and intramuscular adipose tissue (P < 0.003) were significantly greater in the weight-recovered patients than in the control subjects. In contrast, after refeeding, total subcutaneous adipose tissue and skeletal muscle mass did not differ significantly between the patients and control subjects. In patients with AN, serum cortisol decreased and serum estradiol increased significantly with refeeding but not to control concentrations. Conclusions: In women with AN, normalization of weight in the short term is associated with an abnormal distribution of body fat. The implications of these findings for the long-term psychological and physical health of women with AN are unknown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1286-1291
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Body fat distribution
  • Visceral adipose tissue
  • Whole-body MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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