Are All Anorexia Nervosa Patients Just Afraid Of Being Fat and Can We Blame The Western Media?

A really fun aspect of blogging is seeing what search terms lead people to my blog; a frustrating side-effect is not being able to interact with those people directly. This entry is, in part, an attempt to answer a common question that leads individuals to my blog. Common question or search queries are variants of the following (these are actual search terms that led to this blog, I corrected spelling mistakes): “do models cause eating disorders in women?”, “pictures of skinny models linked to eating disorders”, “do the images of models in magazines cause eating disorders?”, “eating disorders relating to thin models”, “psychiatrists thought on how skinny models are causing eating disorders”, “thin models are to blame for eating disorder.”

Well, you get the point.

I briefly started tackling the notions that the “thin ideal” promoted by Western media is to blame for the prevalence of eating disorders and a … Continue reading →

Your Time in the Womb Matters: Risk Factors for Anorexia Nervosa

A not-so-recent, but interesting paper by Cynthia Bulik and colleagues outlines an interesting model for perinatal risk factors in the development of anorexia nervosa. The model “focuses on adverse perinatal events and prematurity as risk factors for AN and encompasses the potential role of passive gene-environment correlation in perpetuating AN risk.”

Importantly, this model “provides intriguing data on a potential cycle of risk for at least a subset of individuals with AN.” The word subset is important: this model, if true – and we don’t know yet, undoubtedly applies only to a proportion of individuals that develop anorexia nervosa, so keep that in mind.

(In case you are wondering, because I was, perinatal period  starts at 140 days of gestation and ends 28 days post birth, prenatal period is any time before birth.)

Trying to figure out the risk factors for anorexia, a rare disorder (<1% of the population), is … Continue reading →

Benefits of Starving and Why You Don’t Have a “Chemical Imbalance”

Most people hate starving, hate prolonged hunger and suck at dieting. Patients with anorexia nervosa (AN), on the other hand, excel in these areas. How can someone like being hungry? How are they able to exert such “self-control”  (as many non-ED people often say) over their food intake? Part of the answer might lie with serotonin. But don’t worry, there’s no “chemical imbalance” – it is much more complex than that.

In this post, I’m going to continue discussing the review article in Nature Neuroscience (2009) by Kaye et al., focusing on what is currently known or hypothesized about the role of serotonin in anorexia (reminder, findings Kaye et al focuses are specific to restricting-type AN and may not apply to AN-BP or BN).

BUT FIRST, A LITTLE NEUROSCIENCE

Serotonin (aka 5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) is a neurotransmitter, meaning that it is a chemical messenger that cells … Continue reading →

Symptoms in Anorexia: Cause or Consequence?

In 2009, Dr. Walter Kaye and colleagues published an article in the prestigious journal, Nature Neuroscience Reviews, titled “New insights into symptoms and neurocircuit function of anorexia nervosa”. [By anorexia nervosa, Kaye et al. limited themselves to restricting-type anorexics (AN-R), so some but not all findings may extend to bingeing-purging anorexics and bulimics] This review, which is lengthy and will take me a few posts to cover thoroughly, focuses on the “findings from pharmacological, behavioural and neuroimaging studies that contribute to the understanding of appetite regulation, reward, neurotransmitters and neurocircuits that are associated with AN.”

A striking feature of anorexia nervosa is the incredibly uniformity of traits and symptoms that patients experience, as well as the narrow range of onset. While the course of the illness varies from person to person, during the AN-R state, individuals exhibit very stereotypic presentation (and that, of course, may be due to malnutrition … Continue reading →

Does Too Much Exposure to Thin Models Cause Eating Disorders? Anorexia, Bulimia in Blind Women

As many of you already know, Vogue has recently banned models that are “too-thin” (and “too young”). It is a big step in the right direction, no, a huge step, and one deserving an applause, that’s according to an article on allvoices.com. Cue a drop in the prevalence of eating disorders, right? The logic in most articles, whether implicit or explicit, seems to be: no more skinny models = no more girls aspiring to be like skinny models = no more eating disorders.

Health of models belonging to both genders has been a growing issue in the past, especially after the death of two models in 2006-2007 from what the doctors blame to their acute eating disorders. This important step by Vogue targets not just skinny models, but also the impact they have on the young minds of girls and boys by presenting an image of perfection that

Continue reading →

Etiology of Eating Disorders: A Model of "Empirical Structure"

Hello all, Saren here. I’m honored that Tetyana asked me to be her co-contributor to ScienceofEDs, and am looking forward to collaborating on the project. My interests and background tend more towards the clinical; I don’t have the neuroscience training that she does, so I hope to bring a slightly different perspective while remaining committed to the research focus of the site. I can be reached at saren[@]scienceofeds[.]org with any questions, critiques or suggestions – I’d love to hear from you!

For my first post, I’m going to focus on one of the basic areas that much of the recent ED research aims to address:

WHAT CAUSES EATING DISORDERS?

We hear a lot about how eating disorders are complex syndromes with multiple causes. Articles in the popular press run the gamut from asserting genetic risk factors to proclaiming that Facebook causes eating disorders. In addition, disordered eating practices and poor … Continue reading →

The Genetics of Anorexia Nervosa

Is it the culture of thinness, obsession with dieting or just bad mothering? When it comes to determining the causes of anorexia nervosa, the answer appears to be none of the above. Increasingly, the evidence is pointing to genetics playing an important role in predisposing individuals to anorexia nervosa. Among clinicians and researchers, the notion that genetic factors are important in the development of anorexia nervosa seems uncontested. In this short review, Dr. Cynthia Bulik and colleagues summarize some of the findings in the genetics of anorexia nervosa.

Currently (DSM-IV), to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, a patient must show:

  • An inability to maintain normal weight (<85% of what is expected)
  • Intense fear of weight gain and/or becoming fat, though underweight
  • Obsession with body weight and shape, giving it undue importance in evaluating self-esteem/self-worth
  • Amenorrhea (missing 3 or more consecutive periods)
  • There are two AN-subtypes: restricting
Continue reading →