Laboratory screening for electrolyte abnormalities and anemia in bulimia nervosa: A controlled study
Article first published online: 7 SEP 2001
Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
International Journal of Eating Disorders
Volume 30, Issue 3, pages 288–293, November 2001
How to Cite
Wolfe, B. E., Metzger, E. D., Levine, J. M. and Jimerson, D. C. (2001), Laboratory screening for electrolyte abnormalities and anemia in bulimia nervosa: A controlled study. Int. J. Eat. Disord., 30: 288–293. doi: 10.1002/eat.1086
- Issue published online: 7 SEP 2001
- Article first published online: 7 SEP 2001
- Manuscript Accepted: 29 AUG 2000
- abnormal eating patterns;
- bulimia nervosa;
- electrolyte abnormalities
Abnormal eating patterns and recurrent purging behaviors can result in significant medical complications. The purpose of this study was to assess the frequency of abnormalities in clinical laboratory tests in patients with bulimia nervosa who reported being otherwise in good health.
Subjects included nonhospitalized women (N = 74) who met criteria for bulimia nervosa outlined in the 3rd Rev. ed. of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. They also reported use of self-induced vomiting and/or laxatives as compensatory behaviors (purging subtype). The control group (N = 110) included female volunteers with no history of a psychiatric disorder. All subjects reported being in good medical health, were medication free, and were in a normal weight range. Blood samples were analyzed in the hospital clinical laboratory.
Compared with controls, patients showed more frequent occurrence of low values for serum potassium (6.8% vs. 0.9%; p < .05) and chloride (8.1% vs. 0.9%; p < .02). Electrolyte abnormalities occurred most often in patients with frequent bulimic episodes. Study groups did not differ significantly in frequency of abnormal hemoglobin concentrations.
These results help to clarify the expected frequency of electrolyte abnormalities in individuals with bulimia nervosa who report otherwise good medical health. The substantial frequency of hypokalemia and hypochloremia underscores the importance of an appropriate medical assessment for individuals with this disorder. © 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 30: 288–293, 2001.