Marking anorexia with a brain protein

June 23, 2009

Eating disorders are frequently seen as psychological or societal diseases, but do they have an underlying biological cause? A new study shows that the levels of a brain protein differ between healthy and anorexic women.

Anorexia is a serious and occasionally fatal eating disorder most commonly affecting women. Scientists do not yet understand the physical causes of anorexia, though some studies suggest a link to low levels of a brain protein called BDNF. Now, a study recommended by Cynthia Bulik, a member of Faculty of 1000 Medicine and leading expert in the field of psychiatry and eating disorders, shows that BDNF levels are higher in women who have recovered from anorexia. This suggests that low BDNF levels may be reversible.

Researchers at Chiba University in Japan found that anorexic women had lower levels of BDNF in their blood than healthy women or those who had recovered from anorexia. Women with low BDNF also had the lowest self-image, suffered from anxiety and depression, and performed poorly on certain tests of cognitive ability.

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, but Bulik forecasts that "...BDNF may emerge as a useful biomarker of [anorexia] and of recovery from [anorexia]."
-end-
Media contact
Robert Kursten
Marketing Manager
Faculty of 1000
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Robert.Kursten@f1000.com

Notes to Editors

1. Cynthia Bulik, Faculty Member for F1000 Medicine, is the William R. and Jeanne H. Jordan Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders in the Department of Psychiatry, Professor of Nutrition in the School of Public Health, and the Director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill http://www.f1000medicine.com/about/biography/1201458987457467

2. The full text of this article is available at http://www.f1000medicine.com/article/tfm70d22bkxq27p/id/1162024

3. Please name Faculty of 1000 Medicine in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the website.

4. Faculty of 1000 Medicine, www.f1000medicine.com, is a unique online service that helps you stay informed of high impact articles and access the opinions of global leaders in medicine. Our distinguished international faculty select and evaluate key articles across medicine, providing a rapidly updated, authoritative guide to the medical literature that matters.

5. BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is a protein made in the brain that is important for growth and survival of neurons during development.

6. Please contact Robert Kursten, Marketing Manager, for a complimentary journalist subscription to Faculty of 1000 www.f1000.com

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