Saturday Smorgasbord: Week in Review

Welcome to another Saturday Smorgasbord- this time, actually appearing on Saturday! Like in weeks past, I've blogged on a number of the doozy stories thus far. However, there are always some good gems that lie just below the surface. Like these:

It's Time to Shut Up About the Cost of Obesity. An article on, the author reports on the absurdity of obesity costs. Instead, he urges, "We're all interested in the most efficient ways to extend life spans and improve our quality of life. But the rhetoric of wasted fat dollars does little for our health; the claim that obesity costs the government $1 trillion is absurd at best and self-fulfilling at worst. Instead, the presidential candidates should pledge support for a federal ban on weight-based discrimination. If we stop blaming fat people for our problems, they might start feeling better—and start saving us money."

Bringing CBT to remote populations. Researcher Dr. Jim Mitchell at the University of North Dakota, Fargo, and director of the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute realized that better treatments for eating disorders don't do a lot of good if you can't get them to the people who need them. Because ND and Minnesota have a lot of very remote locations, he developed a cognitive-behavioral therapy program that connects therapists and patients with webcams and TVs. His research showed that this was just as effective as face-to-face CBT.

Cortisol and impulse control in EDs. (No link for this one- it's in a research journal. If you want the pdf, let me know and I'll email it to you.) Cortisol is a chemical produced at higher levels during times of stress. Researchers have long known a link between eating disorders (especially anorexia) and cortisol levels, though the cause and effect hasn't been teased out. There has been some speculation that ED behaviors (and self-harm) can help raise abnormally low cortisol levels in sufferers by putting the body under stress. People with EDs have also been found to have elevated cortisol levels, although the proportion is different depending on diagnosis and subtype. Researchers in Spain found that ED sufferers with impulse control problems had especially low cortisol levels, which underscores some of the neurological differences even among people with eating disorders. How this explains the migration of people from anorexia to bulimia or vice versa is beyond me. Nonetheless, it is important in beginning to tease apart the complexities of eating disorders.

Again, if you stumble across any good news stories or research, please feel free to send them along. My email is in my profile.


Libby said...

I'd be very interested in reading that cortisol article. Cortisol is an issue I've recently become very aware of. Apparently my levels are very high... My super-cool doctor at the integrative medicine clinic has me taking phosphatidylserine (I think that's spelled right!) to correct it, and it's working wonders. I'm finally sleeping through the night almost every night! But anyway... I've often wondered if my high levels were connected to my periods where I was actively restricting... Can you email it to me? Not sure if you get my email addy from the comment. It's

Libby in DC

Lucy said...

I always thought that people with eating disorders would have a higher 'resting' level of cortisol than people without, and then then use starvation or purging in attempt to lower that level. Seems I am completely wrong! Although surely lower cortisol means that we should feel less stressed out than other people? Perhaps it's not as simple as that.

carrie said...


Not a problem. I'll do that tomorrow sometimes. I did read a case study that a girl with AN and severe self-harm features was given hydrocortisone cream several times daily and had drastic improvement. I personally swear by B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.


You're right- the relationship is perplexing. What the paper seemed to propose is that perhaps one of the biological underlying differences between anorexia and bulimia is resting cortisol level. In the study, people with impulse control and EDs with b/p features had lower cortisol levels than those with more restrictive/compulsive features.

I agree with you, Lucy, that a higher resting cortisol would make more sense than lower, though one has to wonder what kind of effects low cortisol would have.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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