A few days ago, some very interesting findings were released in an article whose title I've also used for the heading on this post. If you're eager to read the article in its entirely, please click here. If you don't have time and/or the ability to go read it right now, I'm going to explore some of the highlights on the article below, because I personally think this is a discovery of such vital importance I cannot just let it slide by without sharing the information here.
As the title indicates, there has been a link discovered between an increased rate of autoimmune diseases in individuals who have/have had an eating disorder compared with the rate of autoimmune diseases among patients who have never had an eating disorder. But the link is not what you might think, at first. According to this recently made public information, it's not the development and duration of an eating disorder that wears the body down to such a point it becomes a prime vehicle for autoimmune disease (although we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the physical complications arising from eating disorders are immeasurable, numerous, and can be fatal), but instead, the research suggests that it is autoimmune disease that may play a role in the development of eating disorders (henceforth referred to as EDs, for simplicity's sake).
If you're wondering about exactly how this study was conducted and how the findings were reached, I'll give you a summary before we go any further. It should be noted, however, that since my brain doesn't really operate on mode: science, I'm not going to list all of the specific numbers and percentages and more intricate data/scientific terminology. (If you want to read all of that, though, you can do so in the article linked above):
The study consisted of 2342 Finnish patients treated at an ED unit in Helsinki, Finland, and was conducted over the course of 15 years (January 1995 through December 2010). The patients were treated for bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and/or binge eating disorder, and each patient was then compared with 4 healthy individuals of the same age and sex from the Central Population Register. They also analyzed data on 30 autoimmune diseases from a hospital discharge register from 1969-2010. The results showed that 8.9% of the patients with EDs had been diagnosed with at least 1 autoimmune disease by the end of the follow-up, compared to 5,4% of healthy control individuals. A couple specific diagnostic categories among autoimmune diseases in which ED patients were significantly at risk included endocrinologic diseases (ie. type 1 diabetes), and gastroenterologic diseases (ie. Crohn's, IBD), but autoimmune diseases still had a high prevalence among the ED patients as compared to the control group even when these two categories were excluded. From the article, "the findings suggest that 'immune-mediated mechanisms could play a role in the development of eating disorders...our findings thus suggest that the link...is based on shared immunological mechanisms, rather than on the shared genetic background.'"*
One quote from the article that particularly piqued my interest:
""...my clinical impression is that in many patients with eating disorders, particularly those with long-lasting and persistent symptoms, the disorder appears to have a biological background," said Dr. Raevuori. In other words, 'autoimmune processes appear to contribute to the onset and maintenance of EDs -- at lease in this subpopulation of patients,' note the investigators."*
That quote resonates with me greatly because it hits home on a very personal level. As many of you know, I'm very open about my struggles, and I've always been that way in the hopes that through sharing my story and being honest, open, and willing to talk about things others may deem taboo, someone, somewhere may find it helpful or be able to relate and garner hope from what I share. And as I always say, if I can even help one person, everything I've ever done will be worth it. But that's a bit of a digression, so back to the topic at hand.
But guess what, folks...