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Eating Disorders May Hike Risk of Autoimmune Disease

Eating Disorders May Hike Risk of Autoimmune Disease

Finnish researchers have found that individuals with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are at risk of developing specific medical problems.

They discovered autoimmune illnesses including type I diabetes and inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn’s disease), were more common among individuals with eating disorders.

In the study, published in PLOS ONE, researchers aimed to address the prevalence and incidence of autoimmune diseases in a large Finnish patient cohort with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorders.

Investigators compared over 2,300 patients who received treatment at the Eating Disorder Unit of Helsinki University Central Hospital with general population controls. Subjects were matched for age, sex, and place of residence while data of 30 autoimmune diseases were tracked from the Hospital Discharge Register.

Researchers discovered that of patients with eating disorders, 8.9 percent had been diagnosed with one or more autoimmune diseases.

“Of the control individuals, the number was 5.4 percent,” said Dr. Anu Raevuori from the University of Helsinki.

The increase in endocrinological diseases was dominated by type I diabetes, whereas Crohn’s disease contributed most to the risk of gastroenterological diseases.

The higher prevalence of autoimmune diseases among patients with eating disorders was not exclusively due to endocrinological and gastroenterological diseases.

That is, when these two categories were excluded, the increase in prevalence was seen in the patients both before the onset of the eating disorder treatment and at the end of the follow-up.

Investigators concluded that there is a link between immune-mediated mechanisms and development of eating disorders.

“As a result, future studies are needed to explore the risk of autoimmune diseases and immunological mechanisms in individuals with eating disorders and their family members,” said Raevuori.

Source: University of Helsinki


Doctor examining a patient photo by shutterstock.

Eating Disorders May Hike Risk of Autoimmune Disease

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Eating Disorders May Hike Risk of Autoimmune Disease. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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