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Biological factors in bulimia nervosa

A new study indicates that alongside the psychological factors that influence eating disorders there may also exist biological reasons that cause certain people to be more susceptible to these disorders. If true, this would greatly help medical professionals decide who under their care may be at a higher risk.

It is known that many factors can trigger compulsive eating disorders in young people. It can affect any age, either gender and it crosses all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. It has been apparent for quite some time that the media with its high standards of “thin is beautiful” messages can have a detrimental effect on the young mind. Young girls are especially in danger in early puberty years when they are struggling to find an identity and fit in with their peers. However a researcher in America has made studies that back up the idea that there are also biological factors which could trigger eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa.

The presence of Biological factors before puberty

Kelly L. Klump, Ph.D. of the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University has found that symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa are present prior to puberty and seen in early adolescence. These symptoms, she has found in her research, could well be due to biological factors. If this is proved to be evident, then it would be so much easier to predict, diagnose and treat compulsive eating disorders before they happen. In order to test her theory she used rats for her study. Klump said, “The presence of increased pubertal risk for binge eating in animals would provide strong confirming evidence of biological influences, as animals do not experience key psychological risk factors (e.g. increased body dissatisfaction) during puberty.”

In her tests Klump attempted to mirror the human Binge eating resistant and binge eating prone traits in the female rat. She therefore used the Boggiano rat model. Klump explained “This model identifies binge eating resistant and binge eating prone female rats based on the consumption of intermittently presented highly palatable food in adulthood. Results revealed dramatic increases in the binge prone phenotype across puberty, such that there was little evidence of individual differences in binge proneness during pre-early puberty but significant differences during mid-late puberty and adulthood.”

The future for treatment for compulsive eating disorders

Klump has therefore concluded from her studies that because a marked change took place in animals that could not possibly have any psychological issues around body image or body size, the only other possible determinant is the biological factor. By considering this factor as well as environmental issues the medical practitioner is better placed to diagnose and treat compulsive eating disorders.

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