The thought of eating disorders generally does not create images of individuals with obesity issues, simply because we tend to associate eating disorders with individuals trying to stay skinny.
A recent Psychiatry Online report asks the question whether obesity and eating disorders are related. Studies within this field suggest that brain circuits that are involved in reward or pleasure may also be involved in obesity and eating disorders.
Research conducted on obesity and eating-disorders tend to focus on separate fields, yet the two have been recently converging. Studies into both areas are finding that some of the same peptide hormones are involved in both conditions.
Hormones such as leptin, ghrelin and the endocannabinoids tend to have a substantial impact on a person’s appetite, energy metabolism and the intake of food. Obese people tend to have abnormally high levels of leptin in their bloodstream. At the same time, they are resistant to the effects of the leptin, much like individuals with type 2 diabetes are resistant to the effects of insulin.
Individuals with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia have been found to have abnormally low concentrations in their bloodstreams. Those with anorexia tend to have abnormally high levels of ghrelin, while the hormone tends to be abnormally low in those with bulimia or a binge-eating disorder.
The research into these areas suggests that willpower is not the key factor underlying eating disorders or obesity. Instead, the key factor tends to be a powerful biology. As such, treatments must first address the biology to understand how to help the patient improve.