Infections might, in fact, spark eating disorders in some people.
For the study, Lauren Breithaupt, a clinical psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and several of her colleagues from Denmark and North Carolina looked at the health histories of 525,643 Danish teen girls born from 1989 to 2006.
A connection between the two ailments immediately became clear. The overall number of girls diagnosed with eating disorders was relatively small—as it is in the United States. But the teens hospitalized with a severe infection were 22 percent more likely to be diagnosed with anorexia, [and] 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with bulimia.
Breithaupt suggests that either the infection itself or the antibiotic used to treat it might be disrupting the patient’s gut microbiome, the collection of microorganisms in the intestine that plays a role in health and disease. This disruption might change the amount of chemicals called neuropeptides circulating in the gut. Because the gut communicates with the brain, the quantities of neuropeptides circulating in the brain might then change, as well. That could, in essence, make people think differently about food or their body.
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