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Young mother died after losing six stone in just months on diet of soup and water

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 6:11 PM on 27th July 2009

A young mother who lived on a diet of soup and water starved herself to death, an inquest heard today.

Helen Anderson, 26, was found dead in bed by her mother at her home in South Shields, South Tyneside on April 6.

For several months before her death, the talented musician, who played violin, piano and guitar, and once auditioned for the Northern Sinfonia, existed on a diet of just water and soup.

Tragic: Helen Anderson starved herself to death after existing on a diet of water and soup for several months

Tragic: Helen Anderson starved herself to death after existing on a diet of water and soup for several months

She lost almost six stone in weight in a matter of months, despite her parents, Michael and Hazel, pleading with her to eat more.

Her body was so starved of sugar it began to eat into its own reserve of fat, the inquest in South Shields heard.

This caused a metabolic chemical reaction called ketoacidosis, which killed her.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney said: ‘This phenomenon – this poison if you like – which developed within her body was made by her body itself.

‘It arises as a result of the body reacting to a lack of sugar within itself and that was in part a consequence of the intensive diet with which Helen was attempting to balance her weight.

‘The sad truth of the matter is there has been a development within her body, a natural phenomena, which has set up this poisoning of her body’s system and has led to her death.

‘It is a problem which can develop very rapidly and without the individual appreciating the consequences.

‘I am totally certain that she had no intention to cause harm to herself.’

Ketocidosis occurs when there’s been a dangerous build up of ketones – acids – in the blood. The condition usually develops slowly but can then become rapidly dangerous.

Normally the body burns up sugar for energy – but if the person hasn’t eaten enough food, the body burns up fat instead. This creates ketones.

Large amounts of ketones can cause a chemical upset of the blood which in case of Helen Anderson proved fatal.

Miss Anderson, who had a five-year-old daughter, Niamh-Kate, by a previous marriage had been dieting to lose weight she put on as a side effect to medication, the inquest heard.

Forensic pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton said she had also been taking slimming tablets to speed up her weight loss, but these did not contribute to her death.

At 5ft 9in, the mother-of-one weighed 9st 2lb when she died, having been 15st, and was at the lower end of the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale.

She was due to become engaged to a Swedish man she met through the internet, Kristian Persson, and the couple were planning a big engagement party in his home country, before tragedy struck.

A former pupil at Hebburn Comprehensive School and later a performing arts student at South Tyneside College, Miss Anderson completed a year of a music degree at Newcastle University, before dropping out.

She later worked in a series of shop and call centre jobs, but hadn’t been employed for some time before her death.

Her parents, both 63, were too upset to speak following the inquest.

But her mother, of Elmfield Road, Hebburn, told the Shields Gazette in April: ‘We all begged Helen to eat.

‘She seemed fine at Christmas, but after that, she just lived on water and cups of soup.

‘She was always a big-boned girl, and I think her death could have been caused by anorexia.

‘This should be a warning to other people about the dangers of eating disorders.’

Comments (55)

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The comments below have been moderated in advance.

I think we need to keep an eye on this, starvation in the U.K and this isn’t the first time either. But this one is plain awful- condolences to the family, very sad.

– Andy, Carlisle, 27/7/2009 19:37

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Society is to blame for deaths like this.

No Wendy …
Society alone not to blame at all. But the entertainment industry along with the advertising industry that continually stress thin, all the images banged into the heads of women who are convinced there is only one way to look, there’s the fault if you are looking for one.
I wish women could ignore the messages delivered by folks with special interests. Ladies, it’s really okay not to look like a stick thin un-natural runway model. A bit of extra weight does not make you look bad. Round is sexy.
So long as it doesn’t affect your health in a bad way, if someone can’t accept you the way your are, they do not deserve you. Oh and btw … the same is true for these exaggerated awful extra large bust enlargements.
That isn’t desirable. It’s bizarre.

– anon, uk, 27/7/2009 19:32

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A very sad case, and I hope it serves to remind people to diet responsibly, having first taken professional advice from their GP.

– Liam, Stockton-on-Tees, 27/7/2009 19:32

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hi ive sufferd from anerxia for many years most times it goes unnoticed my heart goes out to her family she left behind… no one wants to die from it.. like me most are just dieing to live not to die…just hope this can.. maybe save 1 more.. from the realtiy of any illness such like this..

– claire, bristol, 27/7/2009 19:29

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I am 9 stone, 5 foot nine and a healthy size 10 – i eat well and am certainly not skin and bones. i’ve always been this size – it goes to show that every body is different, some can handle being slim, others cannot. condolences to this poor girl and her family. our society’s obsession with thin is horrific.

– victoria, london, 27/7/2009 19:28

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I warning to all wanting to lose weight…lose it slowly and eat a balanced diet…don’t forget to exercise too..which will speed up your metabolism, gain muscle and able to eat more.
Plenty of people can be about 9 stone at 5ft 9 and be healthy…it’s just the fact that she had starved her body to it…I’ve heard of a 300 lb man dying of starvation cos he lost a ton of weight far too quickly.

– nickie, usa, 27/7/2009 19:17

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