A recent study conducted in the Canadian provinces found that adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa may suffer from lifelong brain damage and loss of cognitive function—even if they ultimately return to a normal weight later in life. Until now, little was known as to the long-term effects of this disease in female subjects with adolescent-onset anorexia nervosa.

Reporting in the August 2008 issue of the journal Pediatrics, the researchers said that female subjects who developed the eating disorder in adolescence showed “abnormal cognitive function and brain structure compared with healthy individuals, despite an extended period since diagnosis.” This was especially true of girls who had irregular periods or were amenorrheic.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report a specific relationship between menstrual function and cognitive function in this population,” the authors concluded. “Additional examination of the effects of estrogen on cognitive function in female subjects with anorexia nervosa is necessary.”