According to science, anorexia can alter the structure of the brain

If anorexia is not treated, it can have severe effects on areas of the brain such as the gray matter. Unfortunately, eating disorders are one of the most dangerous and common.

According to science, anorexia can alter the structure of the brain

Last updated: 07 July 2022

The pandemic was the starting point for a worrying trend: the increase in hospitalizations due to eating disorders (EDs). The infection is worrisome in children under 12 years of age. It is important to remember that we are not dealing with just any psychological condition. Moreover, we know that now Loss of appetite can change the structure of the brain.

We are facing a clinical reality that has a significant impact on patient health. And also for family members who always suffer from this physical deterioration, loss of muscle mass, dehydration, dry skin, hair loss, fainting and permanent fatigue.

Many of these young people are reluctant to seek help. In addition to a lack of awareness of the disease, the fact that a gradual drift into depressive states and distorted thoughts can act as a brake when such a critical step is taken. In this case, it is very important to take into account one of the details: If anorexia is not treated from the start, severe consequences may persist permanently..

While it is true that anorexia is a serious condition and can cause thinning of the cortex, it is reversible if treated early.

Loss of appetite can change the structure of the brain

It was a very recent discovery. Seeing how anorexia can alter the structure of the brain was the result of a delicate process of Research Which led the University of Bath and received the support of various international organizations. In this project, 2,000 pre-existing brain scans of people with anorexia who did not have anorexia were analyzed.

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Some of them were also in recovery and following healthy controls. Lead researcher Dr. Esther Walton, from the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology, explained that this was a long and arduous task.. In it, universities and medical centers from all over the world cooperated. What can be seen is revealing.

Experts warn: It is critical to safely regain patients’ weight, to minimize the impact that starvation itself can have on both the body and the brain.

Brain shrinkage due to loss of appetite and its effects

Indeed, the first striking indicator is the estimation of cortical surface depression, cortical thickness and subcortical volume. he is called, What is clear is a decrease in gray matter, a loss of brain cells and the connections between them. All this translates to a smaller size of the organ.

It is important to keep in mind that this brain region is central to the distribution of neural information.. It serves as a keyboard and guide for everything that happens in the brain: movements, memory, emotions, communication, decision-making, etc.

Thus, what can appear at the neurological and behavioral level in these boys and girls who suffer from anorexia nervosa (and are not receiving treatment) are the following:

  • Low level of oxygen in the brain.
  • Modulation of neurotransmitters.
  • Increased risk of early dementia.
  • Seizures, restless legs syndrome.
  • Altered response in areas of the brain that are part of the reward circuit.
  • Obsessive, irrational behaviors and difficulty thinking as a result of these neurological changes.

So, we already know that anorexia can change the structure of the brain, but… Why does this happen? and, most importantly, Is it irreversible?

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What caused this change in the brain?

There is a shocking fact emerging from this research: anorexia affects the brain more than any other psychological condition. We know that depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, stress or Schizophrenia It changes different brain regions. however, This finding highlights the severity of eating behavior disorders (EDs).

Well, if we ask ourselves why this decrease in gray matter is caused by the body mass index (BMI). In other words, High malnutrition alters the patient’s neurobiology, slowly and gradually impairing it.

Hunger causes the body to urgently take nutrients from the muscles and even the heart. If a person withdraws anorexia for a long time, then the nerve cells of the gray matter disintegrate little by little.

Multidisciplinary anorexia care is key to avoiding irreversible consequences for physical health and brain health.

Early treatment reduces brain abnormalities

there is hope. It is true that the knowledge that anorexia can alter the structure of the brain is alarming. It is also shocking to learn that the health of these boys and girls can translate into chronic consequences, such as kidney, bone or heart problems. Now, anyway, Early attention to the disorder itself is critical. Not only can all of these changes in health be avoided, but brain damage can be reversed. That is, the gray matter can restore its original density.

In fact, researchers found that Significant reductions in brain structure have been restored as the patient progresses in his treatment and recovery. Therefore, it is necessary to stress once again the importance of early care for this type of eating behavior disorder.

Remission of anorexia will only come if we start a multidisciplinary treatment, combining both nutritional and psychotherapy (individual and group) and medical care.. Often, it is also necessary to resort to antidepressants or antipsychotics. Whatever the case, each case is unique and requires personal attention.

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One last note

It’s important to keep in mind that loss of appetite doesn’t just mean showing eating problems. We are faced with a situation in which a person struggles with issues of self-esteem, self-demand, anxiety and stress. A patient with eating behavior disorder (ED) does not always admit that they have a problem, which is why support from the environment is essential.

If we have a friend or relative who has a bad relationship with food, let’s be careful. Let’s try to make him see his reality and the need to seek professional help. Let us accompany and be that respected support who does not judge, but knows how to be.

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Myrtle Frost

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