Anorexia Could Be Physical, Not Mental; Eating Disorders Linked to Infections Which Hit Immune System
Byline: ROBIN YAPP
THE eating disorders anorexia and bulimia may be biological diseases rather than mental conditions, experts said yesterday.
Research suggests they are linked to infections which disrupt the body's immune system, causing it to attack the chemicals in the brain controlling appetite.
This would put the disorders in the category of auto-immune diseases, which also includes rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, in which the immune system turns on the body.
The findings, by a Swedish team at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, support evidence that eating disorders cannot be explained by psychiatric factors alone.
Other studies have shown that anorexia is eight times more likely to strike an individual if a close relative is anorexic and scientists have identified two genes that may be involved.
Experts hope the new results will help to accelerate the search for potential treatments.
Traditionally they have centred on psychotherapy, nutrition and, in some cases, medication such as antidepressants.
In the latest study Professor Tomas Hokfelt and colleagues found that those with anorexia and bulimia had higher than usual levels of a particular group of antibodies. …