Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are thought to affect up to 10% of the population yet there is still very little understanding of the biological mechanism that is the source of these illnesses. However, it is thought that because mood disorders such as depression and schizophrenia have roots in biochemical imbalances, that eating disorders could be traced to a similar cause.
Testing out this theory, researchers at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research and the University of Rouen in France carried out a study to see if a correlation could be established. Their findings have potentially hit a breakthrough as they have found strong evidence that a protein made by intestinal bacteria are in fact a potential cause of eating disorders.
In the study, it was also found that specifically, the antibodies made by the host to fight this protein, cross-react with a mammalian satiety hormone. Interestingly, the severity of the symptoms amongst eating disorder patients was also found to correlate with levels of the neutralising antibodies.
Researchers believe that these findings will help health experts to understand these disorders much better and ultimately lead to chemical therapeutic strategies which can be used to correct eating-related illnesses.
Speaking about the next step in this process, senior author of the study, Professor Fetissov, explained:
“We are presently working to develop a blood test based on detection of the bacterial protein ClpB. If we are successful in this, we will be able to establish specific and individualised treatments for eating disorders.”
If you would like more information about anorexia, bulimia or any other eating disorder, please visit our Eating Disorder knowledge centre. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder you can find more information about signs, symptoms and treatments on our eating disorder page.