Eating Disorders Originate From the Brain

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New research has suggested that certain deficiencies in the brain can lead to eating disorders such as bulimia and severe anorexia. The study was zeroed in on endocannabinoids, which are substances created by brain. The function of these substances is similar to the effects of drugs such as hashish and marijuana. Cannabis derivates cause a very profound effect on the body and increased food craving. In other words, these cannabis derivatives make people hungry. In case there is a deficit in the production of these substances, the hunger mechanism in the body is hampered and it leads to eating disorders caused due to lack of hunger.

The report was published in Biological Psychiatry. Tests were carried out by researchers to assess the affect of endocannabinoids on the huger mechanism in the body. The results of the tests performed on anorexic women were compared to those of healthy women. CB1 receptors, which are a kind of endocannabinoid receptors, were measured in order to determine the rise or fall in their densities. Methods used for testing include positron emission tomography, which is otherwise known as PET imaging. Tests were carried out on several areas in the brain.

It was found that in women who were anorexic, there was an increase in a substance called ligand, which hitches itself to CB1 receptors. This causes a reduction in the amount of endocannabinoid and thus, makes the body deficient. The results of the study collaborated with findings of processes that cause deficiency of endocannabinoid levels in the brain. The lead author of the study, Dr. Koen Van Laere, said that insula region of the brain, which is the region responsible for bringing together gustatory information, body perception, emotion and reward, was disturbed in case of anorexic women as well as in those suffering from bulimia.

Dr. John Krystal, who is the editor of Biological Psychiatry, said that endocannabinoids play a very important role in regulating hunger in the body. The present study offers strong proofs as to the relation between this function in the brain and disorders in eating.

The research team said that more research was necessary in order to know the cause of these disturbances in the brain. It could either be triggered due to diseases or due to modifications in the neurochemical system. Both these factors do not bode well with the body, especially with the digestive system. The present research could also lead to new approaches for developing medicines for eating disorders that target these sensitive areas in the brain.