LOS ANGELES -- Singer Karen Carpenter's heart stopped because of irregularities in its beat brought on by chemical imbalances associated with anorexia nervosa, the coroner's office said Friday.
Acting coroner Ronald Kornblum said an autopsy and laboratory tests disclosed Miss Carpenter, 32, died last month as a result of the disease, a psychogenic disorder that makes its victims obsessed with being thin and starve themselves.
'Because she wasn't eating right, she wasn't getting the right chemicals,' Kornblum said. 'That caused irregular heartbeats, and that caused her death.'
Kornblum, who performed the two-hour autopsy, said Miss Carpenter's disease caused a condition known as emetine cardiotoxicity, a self-developed poisoning of the heart that brought on the irregular rhythms and resulted in heart stoppage.
'Anorexia nervosa was the basic problem,' Kornblum said. 'Everything is tied to that.
'Because of the nutritional problems created by the anorexia nervosa, you get chemical imbalances and that leads to heart irregularities. The cardiac problem in turn, in a step by step fashion, led to her death.
'Her heart stopped. Rhythmic disturbances caused it to stop. The disturbances were the result of the chemical toxicity caused by poor nutritional habits.'
Kornblum added that extensive laboratory tests had ruled out medication or drug overdose as a cause of the singer's death. The coroner's office earlier said the 5-foot-4 singer weighed 104 pounds at the time of her death.
Miss Carpenter -- who sang with her brother, Richard, as the soft-rock group The Carpenters -- was found in full cardiac arrest at her parents' home in suburban Downey Feb. 4. She died shortly afterward at a hospital.
The Grammy Award-winning singer and drummer was divorced last year from Thomas Burris, a real estate investor she had married in 1980. They had no children.
The Carpenters, one of the most successful entertainment acts of the 1970s, recorded such hits as 'Close to You,' 'Rainy Days and Mondays,' 'We've Only Just Begun' and 'Yesterday Much More.'
They recorded eight gold albums and 28 singles on the top 100 charts, and their 'Greatest Hits' album is one of the biggest sellers of all time. The Carpenters, who recorded the album 'Made in America' in 1981, had planned to record a new album this spring.