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Scientists discover link between inflammation and eating disorders

Scientists discover link between inflammation and eating disorders

Researchers at the University of Auckland have made an incredible discovery in the gut that may help those suffering from eating disorders. 

Scientists discover link between inflammation and eating disorders

The international review, published in Frontiers in Psychology, looked at the role of gut microbiota in regulating the mood chemical serotonin, which is associated with cognitive disorders.

The New Zealand researchers, along with scientists from Finland, Latvia and Estonia, concluded that the variation in eating disorders between people may arise from the individual differences in gut bacteria.

An individual’s response to stress is also a factor, as it affects inflammation in the nervous system and regulation of serotonin in the brain.

These findings, explain the researchers, offer a new evolutionary neurological model to understand eating disorders.

“The new model predicts that when there are changes in gut microbiota, stress levels and responsivity to stress, a patient’s symptoms and eating disorder diagnosis will change,” says researcher Dr Luoto.

The scientists were also able to distinguish between different eating disorders.

“The evidence we’ve reviewed suggests that the difference between whether people are more likely to suffer bulimia nervosa (BN) or anorexia nervosa (AN) arises from the degree of neuroinflammation caused by chronic stress, with AN patients suffering stronger neuroinflammation than BN patients,” explains Dr Luoto.

The researchers suggest the stronger the neuroinflammation in anorexia patients, the stronger their obsession to lose weight and fear of gaining weight.

The findings conclude that eating disorders should be looked at on a continuum, rather than separate disorders.

In order to shift an individual’s negative self-image, the authors suggest cognitive behavioural therapy based on evolutionary psychiatry, as well as media literacy programmes.

“Ultimately, we hope the new model will promote further empirical work, provide substantial improvements in therapeutic treatments and drugs for eating disorders and eventually be of practical use to the millions of people all over the world who lead lives that are severely debilitated by these pervasive disorders,” says Dr Luoto.

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