Anorexia nervosa and omega-3 fatty acids


Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. Persons with this disorder lose more weight than is considered healthy for their age and height. It often begins during the pre-teen or teen years or young adulthood and approximately 90-95% of sufferers are girls and young women, but may also be seen in males.

Anorexia nervosa is a serious condition that can have severe medical consequences: abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure (the risk for heart failure rises), reduction of bone density, muscle loss, weakness, dehydration (which can produce kidney failure), etc. The exact causes of anorexia nervosa are not known, but in its origin genes, hormones and social attitudes (social or cultural ideas about health and beauty) may be involved. Experts have found that early treatment significantly improves the chances of recovery. Therefore, it is important to be aware of its warning signs:

  • Excessive weight loss in a short space of time.
  • Behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss and control of food are becoming primary concerns.
  • Development of food rituals (for example, eating foods in certain orders or rearranging food on a plate).
  • Excessive exercise.
  • Progressive loss of social links.

Now we know another thing: these patients display a significant deficit in long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cell membranes (EPA and DHA belong to this type of fatty acids). This doesn’t mean that one thing is the cause of the other, but opens the door for future research, and may lead to the development of new therapeutic interventions in this disorder.




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