Friday, May 28, 2010

Anorexia brain shrinkage reversible

updated 11:05 a.m. ET, Thurs., May 27, 2010

Anorexics who lose excessive weight can also see a shrinking in the brain's gray matter. But new research suggests when they reach a healthy body size they also pack on the gray matter volume.

The eating disorder officially known as anorexia nervosa, in which an individual starves him or herself or binges and purges, can lead to all sorts of problems as the person becomes malnourished.

"Anorexia nervosa wreaks havoc on many different parts of the body, including the brain," said study team leader Christina Roberto of Yale University.

Past research has shown that anorexics who had maintained a healthy body weight for at least a year didn't show significant differences in brain volume compared with their counterparts without an eating disorder, suggesting any neural deficits had been rectified. But how fast the matter returns and how this happens over time were not known.

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"Within a few weeks a little over a month we started to see that reversal. Their gray matter didn't fully normalize, but another study suggests if a patient maintains that weight over time it probably will fully normalize."

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In terms of full recovery from the disorder, Roberto said overall about one-third of sufferers get better fully, one-third struggle over time, and one-third remain chronically ill.


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