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An estrogen patch for anorexia?

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Treating girls with anorexia might now involve an estrogen patch, according to research presented at the Endocrine Society meeting this week.

Madhusmita Misra, MD, MPH, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues reported that anorexic females may benefit from estrogen therapy to help combat anxiety that often accompanies the condition.

More estrogen associated with lower anxiety

Previous studies on rats showed that low estrogen levels correspond with higher levels of anxiety – a problem that researchers found could be remedied by estrogen therapy.

In the study of 72 female teens, many reported much lower anxiety when they were given an estrogen replacement patch compared to girls who had been given a placebo. The girls on the estrogen therapy used a 100-mg patch twice a week and were assessed for attitudes about body image, eating behaviors and anxiety.

Misra said that, over time, the girls who had the highest increase in estrogen also had the lowest presence of anxiety.

No change in eating behaviors

While estrogen therapy might be helpful in treating anorexia-related anxiety, the study reported no changes in the girls' eating habits and attitudes after 18 months.

Endocrinologists may give estrogen replacement therapies to anorexics for the purpose of improving bone growth, but it remains to be seen whether it can also improve long-term anxiety associated with the condition, Misra noted.

"It will be important to see more studies happen before we can put this into clinical practice," Misra told MedPage Today.

Source: MedPage Today