Millions of people in the United States suffer from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is a dangerous eating disorder characterized by distorted body image, obsession with food and weight, drastic reduction in food intake often to the point of starvation, and extreme weight loss (1). Bulimia nervosa is a somewhat similar eating disorder more specifically characterized by recurring episodes of uncontrollable binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting or abuse of laxatives or diuretics (2).
The vast majority - more than 90 percent - of those afflicted with eating disorders are adolescent and young adult women (1). This has led to the popular belief that eating disorders can be attributed to social factors, specifically the heavy emphasis which is placed on thinness as a measure of physical attractiveness and feminine beauty in our culture. It is thought that women, especially young women, develop eating disorders in an attempt to conform to this ideal (1). While it is likely that such social factors do play an important role in the development of eating disorders, research has shown that several other psychological and biological factors are also involved. This paper will focus specifically on the biochemical factors, including abnormal activity of brain neurotransmitters, hormones and other brain chemicals, which have been implicated in these disorders.
Disturbances of the serotonergic pathways within the brain have been linked to the onset, persistence, and recurrence of eating disorders. In particular, it seems that increased serotonin activity in the brain may be responsible for anorexic behavior, while decreased serotonin activity may be responsib...
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3)Eating Disorders, Brian Disorders Network
4)The Hidden Truth About Eating Disorders
5)Fen-Phen Information, US Food and Drug Administration
6)Decreased Serotonin Function in Bulimia Nervosa, Full text article: Archives of General Psychiatry, 54: 529-534, June 1997
7)Alterations in Serotonin Activity and Psychiatric Symptoms After Recovery From Bulimia Nervosa, Full text article: Archives of General Psychiatry, 55:927-935, October 1998
8)Serotonin and Eating Disorders, PharmInfoNet
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