EXPERT REACTION: Severe childhood infections may increase eating disorder risk in teen girls
Journal/conference: JAMA Psychiatry
Organisation/s: George Mason University, USA
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We all have experienced that when we are sick we lose our appetite. But how being sick affects eating habits long-term has only recently been discussed. There has been recent talk on how infections trigger autoimmune responses and affect our eating behaviour.
This study is the latest in a series of cohort trials designed to evaluate the association of hospitalisation for infection and the treatment of anti-infective agents with the risk of an eating disorder diagnosis. The authors looked at all the girls born in Denmark from 1989 to 2006. They observed that an infection in childhood requiring hospitalisation and three or more courses of anti-infectives is associated with an increased risk of eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia.
What we can take home from this study: 1) There is a complex interplay between the immune system and eating behaviours. 2) Infections and inflammation can trigger behaviour changes which 3) in vulnerable individuals can affect eating behaviour long-term.
What we still do not know: Are infections the cause of the development of eating disorders? More studies need to be conducted to establish explicit links between infections and eating disorders. This could be helpful in diagnosing and treating eating disorders.
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