After studying the ‘gut-brain axis’ scientists find link between gut micro-flora and eating disorder
The study findings were published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
The gut “microbiota” represents the trillions of diverse bacteria that populate the digestive tract. According to new study it also affect the “gut-brain” axis.
Anorexia nervosa is the highest mortality rate eating disorder that affects more than 3 million Americans.
Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine found that gut bacterial imbalance is associated with psychological symptoms of people suffering from anorexia nervosa. The gut micro-flora of anorexic people was found to be different when compared to healthy individuals.
“Other studies have linked gut bacteria to weight regulation and behavior. Since people with anorexia nervosa exhibit extreme weight dysregulation, we decided to study this relationship further.
“We’re not able to say a gut bacterial imbalance causes the symptoms of anorexia nervosa, including associated symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. But the severe limitation of nutritional intake at the center of anorexia nervosa could change the composition of the gut microbial community. These changes could contribute to the anxiety, depression, and further weight loss of people with the disorder. It’s a vicious cycle, and we want to see if we can help patients avoid or reverse that phenomenon. We want to know if altering their gut microbiota could help them with weight maintenance and mood stabilization over time”, as lead study author, Ian Carroll, PhD and assistant professor of medicine in the UNC Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease declares about new research findings.
Study analyzed fecal samples from 16 anorexic women and 12 healthy ones.
Susan Kleiman, graduate student in Dr. Caroll’s lab, found significant differences between gut bacteria populations from fecal samples coming from the 16 anorexic women, before and after their weight was restored in normal ranges. She found that microbial diversity increased after treatment, when compared to the period before hospital admission. Nevertheless, anorexic women gut micro-flora diversity was less diverse when compared to the 12 healthy individuals.
As the microbial flora of anorexic patients was restored, their mood also improved and anorexia symptoms diminished.
To further study this link, Dr. Caroll’s team received a five-year, $2.5-million grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health.
Dr. Cynthia Bulik, PhD, director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, also involved in the studies, states: “Currently available treatments for anorexia nervosa are suboptimal. In addition, the process of weight gain and renourishment can be extremely uncomfortable for patients. Often, patients are discharged from the hospital, and within months and sometimes weeks they find themselves losing weight again and facing readmission. If specific alterations in their microbiota could make re-nourishment less uncomfortable, help patients regulate their weight, and positively affect behavior, then we might see fewer readmissions and more cures.”
“The gut microbiota is clearly important for a variety of health and brain-related issues in humans. And it could be important for people with anorexia nervosa”, Dr. Caroll declares about further studies importance about link between cultivating a healthy microbiota and therapeutic aid for anorexic people.