Explosive new claims from a team of UK researchers suggest anorexia nervosa may not be psychological, but in fact a bacterial infection.
Scientists are suggesting that anorexia may be caused by bacteria with then confuses the immune system. This leads it to attack the brain and trigger feelings of personal disgust.
They also believe that this same infection can cause chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The researchers from Lancaster University are sure that psychological factors are not the main cause. The traditional view is that it is caused by these factors, plus environmental and social.
Women are more susceptible to auto-immune diseases, which could like to why women are more likely to suffer from anorexia.
Dr Quenton Wessels, at Lancaster University, says the immune system can attack healthy parts of the brain.
“Auto-antibodies acting on the brain’s limbic system could induce extremes of emotion including disgust and fear,” he said.
“These then become linked, in the minds of adolescent girls, to culturally determined ideas of what is, and what is not, the ideal body shape and size. It is then a small step for disgust and fear to be directed to food and obesity which the fashion industry currently demonizes.”
“We think specific bacteria is setting it off. It is almost like the microbes within you can determine you mood, which is profound in itself.”
The research team will be trying to isolate the particular bacterial infection and if that is discovered, it could lead to potential cures for disorders which have been difficult to treat.
If the hypothesis is proved to be true and that it does come from bacteria, that means anorexia could be physically contagious. A recent study has discovered that the eating disorder is also socially contagious, as it is more prevalent in single sex schools.
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