Eating Disorder Risk, Brain Size Linked in New Study


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Earlier this week, a new study revealed evidence that certain eating disorders and alcoholism could share a genetic link. Now, another new study is showing that anorexia may be more prevalent in people with larger brains.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, specifically found that the insula and orbitofrontal cortex in anorexic girls are larger that girls without the eating disorder. The insula is a portion of the brain involved in taste, and the orbitofrontal cortex is involved in the body's fullness response after eating.

"While eating disorders are often triggered by the environment, there are most likely biological mechanisms that have to come together for an individual to develop an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa," said Dr. Guido Frank, lead author of the study and a psychiatry professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

The study looked at a small group of adolescent girls. Some had been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, and some had not. Those diagnosed with anorexia were found to have larger left orbiofrontal, right insular, and bilateral temporal cortex grey matter. For those same girls, orbitofrontal gray matter volume correlated with an aversion to "sweet tastes."

Guido and his colleagues believe their findings reveal how people diagnosed with anorexia are able to go without food. The researchers also suggest certain larger portions of the brain could predispose people to develop anorexia. The study's findings corroborate those found in a study published earlier this year that found a link between brain size and anorexia in adults.

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