Do anorexics taste food differently?

March 2, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
Research on brain scans reveals that anorexic women may experience taste differently than others. Research on brain scans reveals that anorexic women may experience taste differently than others. Dr. Jay Adlersberg reports on anorexia and the brain during national Eating Disorders Awareness week.

Sports journalist Karen Pearlman is healthy now, but when she was a teenager, she was anorexic.

"I remember eating a lot of gum," she said. "And not really caring about what I ate, just the least amount possible."

Psychiatrist Walter Kaye wanted to know whether people with anorexia experience food differently.

In research, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, he studied recovered anorexics like Pearlman .

He and his colleagues used MRI scanners to study brain activity in response to tasting sugar water.

They found former anorexics had less activity in the brain area that recognizes taste, compared to women who never had eating disorders.

"Food may not be as rewarding as it is to people without an eating disorder," Dr. Kaye said. "And this may very well explain why they're able to not eat and lose so much weight."

Pearlman hopes these findings will increase people's understanding of those with anorexia.

"I think it's a very misunderstood and, of course, debilitating illness," she said.

Dr. Kaye says a better awareness of the physical basis of anorexia will lead to more effective treatments. He has worked with anorexics for 30 years and says that it has the highest death rate of any psychiatric disorder.

For more on the story, visit Sciencentral.com


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