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What causes the female athlete triad?

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

There are three factors that collectively determine if a female athlete has the Female Athlete Triad. When all three factors occur at once the athlete is considered to have an eating disorder and is at high risk of other medical conditions.

The three factors are:

  • Low calorie intake. In a female athlete the intake of total calories is often significantly less than the calorie expenditure given athletic performance.
  • Amenorrhea. Irregular or No period, generally a result of too little body fat.
  • Weak bones. Risk and development of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis will occur if condition goes untreated.

Female athlete triad is comprised of three things, disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis. The primary issue responsible for triggering female athlete triad is an energy deficiency. When we have lack of energy to supply our body with efficient fuel supplies it will lead to menstrual issues such as amenorrhea and osteoporosis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.