Using Animal Research to Justify Eating Disorder Treatment Practices: Are We Going Too Far? (On Eating Junk Food in Treatment – Part II)

As a follow up to Charlene’s  post on eating hyper-palatable foods during eating disorder treatment , I asked Liz–SEDs’ resident expert on animal behaviour, particularly in relation to binge eating and drug addiction–to look at some of the studies that Julie O’Toole mentioned as evidence for Kartini Clinic’s guidelines of avoiding hyper-palatable foods for the first year of eating disorder recovery. If you missed Dr. O’Toole’s post, please do take a look. Here’s the main conversation that led to this post: 

In the comments, I asked Dr. O’Toole, 

I agree that eating cheetos and sugar-y drinks is ubiquitous but not exactly healthy, and I too question many versions of “normal eating” that people promote (and *everyone* has an opinion), but I wonder — if there’s any evidence for not allowing hyper-palatable foods to patients for a year? And what does the Kartini Clinic consider to be hyper-palatable? Why

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Models of Anorexia Nervosa: A Few Insights from Our Animal Cousins

In 1967, Routtenberg and Kuznesof reported a very peculiar phenomenon in rats:

They discovered that when rats were on a restricted feeding schedule (1 hour per day in their experiment) and had free access to a running wheel, their food intake was significantly lower than in control rats, which were on the same feeding schedule but without access to a running wheel. This discrepancy between increased running activity and decreased food intake caused substantial body weight loss, and if rats were not removed from the experimental setup timely, they would eventually die of starvation. This model, later named the activity-based anorexia (ABA) model, is one of the most widely used animal models for the study of anorexia nervosa (AN). (Source)

Of course, rats are not humans. Nonetheless, animal models of anorexia nervosa can inform us of some of the underlying neuropsychological and physiological influences and consequences of Continue reading →

How Much Can We Learn About Eating Disorders From Animal Research?

I have been studying the neurobehavioral aspects of food and drug reinforcement for the past 5 years (read more about it on my profile page). This involves using rats to mimic basic human behaviors surrounding food and drug intake. I then manipulate various neurotransmitter systems by using drugs and observe the effects this manipulation has on the behaviors I am interested in.

What’s important to this type of research is that we constantly challenge and evaluate the validity of using these animal models to study complex human diseases and disorders. Validity can be divided into several categories, but I’m going to focus on two in particular and relate them to an animal model of binge food intake.  These two types of validity are predictive validity and construct validity:

  1. Predictive validitywhen comparing animal research to human research, refers to the ability for some measure of animal behavior
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