Scientists Link Malfunctions in the Endocannabinoid System to Bulimia and Anorexia
Posted by Laura Vladimirova | November 28 2011 | 3753 views | Comments ↓
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For years, doctors and counselors have tried in vain to find exact causes for bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Experts cite genetic conditions, psychological trauma, family issues, societal and cultural influences, or combinations of all of the above as possible factors. This means that treatment can be very complex. Recently, scientists have had a break-through as they discovered something that has lead them in a brand new direction. New research shows that deficits of endocannabinoid receptors in the brain may play a role in the origins of the potentially life-threatening eating-disorders which affect over 7 million people annually.
In the medical community, medical marijuana has been used to stimulate the appetite in a variety of medical conditions. Chemotherapy patients, for instance, are well-known for relying on medical marijuana to help invoke normal eating patterns, which in turn help their bodies recover from the damaging Cancer treatment.
As for sufferers of eating disorders, their aversion to food is well-documented too. The researchers involved with the study now consider that a malfunction in the brain may cause a disruption in normal endocannabinoids receptor development and function. Endocannabinoids are naturally made by the brain and their effects resemble the effects of medical marijuana and hashish. Thus, the absence of functioning receptors may be linked to a development of the disorders.
The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, measured the status of the endocannabinoid system indirectly by determining whether there was an increase or decrease in the density of endocannabinoid receptors, (also known as the CB1 receptor) in women with the disorders compared to women without.
“The role of endocannabinoids in appetite control is clearly important. These new data point to important connections between this system and eating disorders,” said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.
They used PET imaging to study brain regions and compared the results. The images of women's brains with the eating disorders showed significantly lower levels of functioning receptors.
Scientists also found that receptors in the insula, the part of the brain which controls body image perception, were altered in women with eating disorders.
Those involved with the study plan to continue the work in order to determine whether the changes in the brain are caused by the illness or if the receptor varieties serve as an indicator of a greater potential to develop eating disorders. Further, because only a few treatment options exist for women with bulimia or anorexia, scientists are hopeful that the endocannabinoid system may be a key for developing new therapies to treat the disorders.
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Monday, 28 November 2011
Article by Laura Vladimirova, on Nov. 28th 2011