Serum cholesterol in bulimia nervosa


  • Joelle Pauporte,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York
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  • B. Timothy Walsh

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York
    • 1051 Riverside Drive (NYSPI Unit 98), New York, New York, 10032
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The purpose of this retrospective study was to replicate and to extend previous work indicating that bulimia nervosa is associated with elevated serum levels of cholesterol and to examine the association between cholesterol and other clinical and serum measures.


Clinical characteristics and laboratory data including nonfasting cholesterol and thyroid indices were collected from charts of 119 women with bulimia nervosa and 42 female controls.


There was no significant difference between the two groups in mean age or body mass index. The mean serum cholesterol level of the patient group was statistically significantly greater than that of the control group (patients: 194 ± 36 mg/dl; controls: 176 ± 34 mg/dl; t = 2.77; df = 159; p = .006). The mean calculated free T4 of the bulimia nervosa patient group was statistically lower than that of the control group (patients: 1.89 ± 0.32; controls: 2.09 ± 0.26; t = 2.86; df = 141; p = .005). There was no correlation between calculated free T4 and serum cholesterol within the combined group (r = .04, p > .5, N = 143) or within the patient group (r = .08, p > .3, N = 118).


The average serum level of cholesterol is elevated in the patients with bulimia nervosa. The mechanism for and the consequences of this abnormality are uncertain. © 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 30: 294–298, 2001.