Monday, May 25, 2009

Medications to treat anorexia on the horizon

From The Telegraph in the UK:

Drugs to treat anorexia could be developed following research which found physical changes to the brain in the womb may be partly responsible for the condition.

Researchers found that 70 per cent of anorexic children and young people they studied showed signs of problems with neurotransmitters, chemicals which help brain cells communicate.

Their report, to be unveiled at a conference at the Institute of Education in London this week, suggests that these developmental changes meant the patients were particularly vulnerable to eating disorders, prompting its authors to propose screening children at the age of eight and experts to claim it could "pave the way for the first drugs".

One of the report's authors, Ian Frampton, an honorary consultant in paediatric psychology at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: "Our research shows that certain kids' brains develop in such a way that makes them more vulnerable to the more commonly known risk factors for eating disorders, such as the size-zero debate, media representations of very skinny women and bad parents.

"Arguments that social factors such as girls feeling under pressure to lose weight in order to look like high-profile women in the media contain logical flaws because almost everyone is exposed to them, yet only a small percentage of young people get anorexia."

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of Beat, an eating disorder charity, said the research could "pave the way for the first drugs to be developed to treat eating disorders, similar to the way that anti-depressants help rebalance the brain of people with depression".

"Parents always blame themselves," she said, "but what we are learning more and more is that some people are very vulnerable to anorexia and that is down to genetic factors and brain chemistry and not them trying to look like celebrity models or suffering a major traumatic even early in their lives."