Stress is not always about falling into eating disorders
According to the authors of the study, the findings call into question a common theory that has never been directly tested in patients.
Their study involved 85 women (22) anorexia, With 33 bulimia and a control group of 30, without eating disorders). Study participants were assessed over two days on habits to find out how stress affects them.
The women also underwent MRI brain tests to assess brain activity.
“The idea was to see what happened when these women were stressed. Did it affect the major brain regions that are important for self-control and what led to an increase in food consumption? What we found surprised us with the prevailing theory,” said Margaret Westwater. He is the head of research for a doctoral student in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge (UK).
Presented with the buffet, women with eating disorders generally ate less than those in the control group, but the number they ate did not differ after stress or stress-free tests, the findings showed.
The researchers found that activity in two key brain regions was linked to the number of calories consumed in all three groups, suggesting that these regions play an important role in controlling nutrition.
“Even though these two eating disorders are similar in many respects, there are clear differences in brain levels,” Westwater said in a university note.
In particular, women with bulimia appear to have difficulty slowing down their response to changes in the environment. This can lead to urgent decisions that leave you at risk of eating binge.
“The theory suggests that these women should have eaten more when they were stressed, but that’s not what we found,” Westwater said. “Clearly, when we’re thinking about eating behavior in these disorders, we need to take a more nuanced approach.”
The findings were released on April 12th Journal of Neuroscience.
According to lead author Paul Fletcher, the findings make it clear that the relationship between stress and binge eating is very complicated.
“It’s about the environment around us, our psychological state, and how our bodies tell us we’re hungry or full,” said psychiatric professor Fletcher.
If researchers better understand how the gut shapes thoughts related to self-control or decision-making, they may be in a better position to help people with “very weak illnesses,” he said.
“To do that, we need to take a much more integrated approach to studying these diseases,” Fletcher added.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more eating disorders.
SOURCE: University of Cambridge, news, 12 April 2021