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Young Ballerinas May Face Heart, Bone Risks

Too few calories, too much exertion can spell danger, study warns

MONDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- Young ballerinas who stop menstruating because they don't eat enough to cover their energy output face the same heart and bone health risks as other young female athletes in the same circumstances, new research suggests.

Inadequate food intake and lack of menstruation can place dancers at higher risk for the "cardiovascular and bone density deficits of much older, postmenopausal women," study leader Dr. Anne Hoch, a sports medicine expert at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said in a news release from the college.

Hoch and colleagues studied 22 young professional ballerinas to determine the incidence of disordered eating, lack of menstruation (amenorrhea), abnormal vascular function and low bone density.

The researchers found that 36 percent of the dancers had disordered eating habits, 77 percent had a calorie deficit, 27 percent were amenorrheic, 23 percent had low bone mass density, and 64 percent had abnormal artery dilation.

"It was unknown if professional dancers without menstrual periods have evidence of vascular dysfunction, yet some characteristics ... were common in this group. Eighty-six percent had one or more components, and 14 percent had all four [risk factors]," Hoch said in the news release.

The study was to be presented May 30 at an American College of Sports Medicine meeting, in Seattle.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about amenorrhea.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Medical College of Wisconsin, news release, May 30, 2009

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