Could scientists have found the first effective treatment for anorexia?

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Harpers Bazaar UK

A new treatment for anorexia has been developed which looks at the condition as a "brain-based illness".

Implanting electrodes deep in the brain has been to found to reduce depression and anxiety and, in some causes, has prompted weight gain, reports the BBC.

A Canadian study, published in the Lancet Journal, looked at 16 people with severe anorexia, all of whom had tried all other available treatments. The electrodes were placed in areas of the brain thought to be linked to anorexia and within a few months some patients felt the symptoms of depression and anxiety had lifted. Over the next 12 months, a number of the patients had gained weight with their average BMI rising from 13.8 to 17.3.

Dr Nir Lipsman, a neurosurgeon at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, hopes that the study will prove that anorexia is a disorder of the brain, not a lifestyle choice.

"There are currently no effective treatments for people with long-standing anorexia nervosa - people who are often the sickest and most vulnerable of dying from the condition," he told the BBC.

"Our work, which builds on earlier trials, is one of the first brain-based strategies that has been shown to help with chronic anorexia.

"And my hope is that through this research we are also validating the idea that anorexia is a brain-based illness, not a personality or lifestyle choice."

However, much more research is needed before the treatment could be introduced.

Dr Carrie McAdams, of the University of Texas Southwestern, said: "Further work to establish efficacy, safety and long-term outcomes in a larger cohort is needed."

Professor Rebecca Park, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists added: "While these results are encouraging, we must remember that deep brain stimulation for anorexia nervosa is a high risk, experimental treatment."


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