Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are often regarded as psychological or societal diseases, but new research suggests that they may have an underlying biological cause - according to a new study anorexic women have different levels of a brain protein to healthy women.
The research by scientists at Chiba University in Japan has revealed that anorexic women had lower levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) than healthy women or those who had recovered from anorexia.
BDNF is a protein made in the brain that is important for the growth and survival of neurons during development and the researchers found that women with low BDNF also had the lowest self-image, suffered from anxiety and depression, and performed poorly on certain tests of cognitive ability.
Anorexia is a serious and occasionally fatal eating disorder most commonly affecting women, the physical causes of which remain unclear.
Other research has previously suggested a link between anorexia and low levels of the brain protein BDNF and Cynthia Bulik, a member of Faculty of 1000 Medicine and leading expert in the field of psychiatry and eating disorders, says this latest research which shows that BDNF levels are higher in women who have recovered from anorexia, suggests that low BDNF levels may be reversible and BDNF may emerge as a useful biomarker of anorexia and of recovery from the condition.
The researchers say further study is needed to determine what role BDNF plays in anorexia, and if it can be used to predict the risk of developing it.
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