Anorexia May Affect Taste Sensations

The eating disorder anorexia nervosa may affect women's
taste sensations, researchers report.

The finding comes from a small study of 16 women who had recovered from
anorexia nervosa for an average of nearly four years.

Those women currently had normal eating habits and normal BMI (body mass
index), though their BMI was at the low end of the normal range.

They got brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
while they drank plain water or sugary water that was about as sweet as a soft

The women -- who all had the same breakfast of milk, juice, and bread with
butter and marmalade before the experiment -- also rated the drinks'
pleasantness and whether they felt anxious after drinking the beverages.

For comparison, the researchers -- who included Angela Wagner, MD, of the
University of Pittsburgh's medical school -- repeated the experiment with 16
women of similar backgrounds who had never had anorexia.

Wagner's team focused on a brain area called the insula, which is involved
in taste.

The brain scans showed that the women who had had anorexia had less activity
in their insula when drinking the plain water and the sugary water than women
who hadn't had anorexia.

The brain scans also showed that in women who had never had anorexia, the
insula was especially active in those who liked the taste of the sugary

But in the women who had had anorexia, the insula wasn't particularly active
when they liked the drinks' taste.

The researchers conclude that there may be taste differences in women with
and without a history of anorexia.

It's not clear which came first: decreased insula activity or anorexia. The
study is due to appear in an upcoming edition of the journal
Neuropsychopharmacology and currently appears online on the journal's
web site.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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