Gut Bacteria May Influence Eating Disorders

By: Katie Campbell

Gut bacteria research is a hot topic within the medical community right now as it is found to have more influence within the human body than previously thought. A recent study performed at the University of North Carolina: School of Medicine has found a potential link between patients with anorexia nervosa and gut bacteria which adds to the growing list of research suggesting the connection between the gut microbiota and the brain, known as the “gut-brain axis”.

Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that affects more than 3 million Americans. It has the highest mortality of any psychological disorder. The study was performed by collecting fecal samples from women with anorexia nervosa when admitted to the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders and again at discharge (when their weight was restored at approximately 85 percent of their ideal weight). They found significant differences in the gut microbiota in which the samples taken at admission had less intestinal diversity than at discharge, but both samples were significantly less diverse than samples from healthy individuals.

            Interestingly, as the patient’s weight increased, their mood improved as well. Therefore, the researchers posit that there may a connection between improved microbial diversity or abundance and the psychological symptoms of the eating disorder. They will continue to investigate this potential connection with a $2.5 million dollar grant to perform studies with mice. They hope that one day they may be able to provide microbial therapy to patients with eating disorders to minimize readmissions and maximize cure rates.


University of North Carolina Health Care. "Gut bacteria population, diversity linked to anorexia nervosa: Studying the 'gut-brain axis,' researchers find evidence of an association." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 October 2015. <>.