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Are anorexic tendencies prevalent in the habitual runner?
  1. G D Wheeler,
  2. S R Wall,
  3. A N Belcastro,
  4. P Conger,
  5. D C Cumming

    Abstract

    To investigate whether runners displayed any of the abnormalities characteristic of patients with anorexia nervosa, we conducted a cross sectional study of 31 high mileage, 18 low mileage runners and 18 non-running controls. Subjects completed a personal data questionnaire, the Jackson Personality Inventory (JPI) and the Eating Attitudes Questionnaire (EAT), underwent a body image test and a blood sample was obtained for measurement of reproductive, thyroid and adrenal hormones. High mileage runners scored significantly higher infrequency scores on the JPI than sedentary controls but there was no evidence of psychopathology. The high mileage runners also significantly overestimated waist width and there were small but statistically significant differences in EAT scores between controls and the runner groups. Ten of 49 runners had EAT scores beyond two standard deviations above the mean of non-running controls. Serum total, free and non-specifically bound testosterone and prolactin levels were significantly lower in high mileage runners than controls. LH, FSH, cortisol and thyroid hormones were not significantly different. There were no significant differences in any hormone between low mileage runners and controls. displayed no clear abnormalities characteristic of patients with anorexia The results suggested that running may have a chronic effect on serum testosterone and prolactin levels in high mileage but not low mileage runners. Although there was no significant evidence of anorexia nervosa on testing the runners with EAT, the overestimation of waist size provided some evidence of a distortion of body image in the high mileage runners. Runners displayed no clear abnormalities characteristic of patients with anorexia nervosa.

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