Sunday Smorgasbord (One day late!)

Hi all. Sorry for the lack of a smorgasbord yesterday- it wasn't for lack of tasty tidbits to write about, it was due to general packing insanity and the fact that we had to pack up the router and modem.

So I've added a few little extras to the smorgasbord today because if you're like me, you're on a meal plan, and you have to make up any missed food exchanges. And we don't want people going hungry around here, so here is some of the latest in news, research, and other writings in the ED world.

Blood Tests For Hallucinations, Delusions May Be Available In Future

This, of course, doesn't have much directly to do with eating disorders, but with the revisions to DSM-V growing ever closer, changes in how mental illnesses are diagnosed will have repercussions in the ED world as well. Currently, most mental illnesses are what's known in the medical world as "syndromes"; that is, the DSM describes a series of symptoms and characteristics of an illness, and if you have enough of them, you have the illness. For infectious disease, the tests tend to be more rigorous: the genetic material can be detected in your bloodstream, or antibodies to the pathogen can be measured. Not that it's always completely cut and dry (believe me, I've done diagnostics in a research study, and it's NOT!), but the diagnosis is much less subjective.

From a press release*:

[Researchers from Indiana University] studied gene expression in blood samples from patients with schizophrenia and related disorders, with phenotypic information collected at the time of blood draw, then cross-matched the data with other human and animal model lines of evidence.

Predictive scores, based on panels of top candidate biomarkers, show good sensitivity and predictive value for detecting high psychosis states in the original cohort as well as in three additional cohorts.

"These results have implications for the development of objective laboratory tests to measure illness severity and response to treatment in devastating disorders such as schizophrenia," said [lead researcher Dr. Alexander] Niculescu.

(The links in the above segment were from me!)

I can't say that I'm super-optimistic about this research being implemented in the near future, as one gene-association study is far from proof, and many don't hold up to confirmatory studies. However, better diagnostics are needed, and so is innovative thinking. I'm glad to see that people are trying to harness the power of the human genome; how well that harnessing will go remains to be seen.

Similarities between Eating Attitudes Among Friendship Groups in Childhood: The Moderating Role of Child Anxiety

I came across this paper by way of the ever fabulous Voice in Recovery on Twitter (you can follow Voice in Recovery by clicking on the link, and you can also follow the ED Bites Twitter feed), and to me, it just explained so much. If I were so utterly busy right now, I would devote a whole post to it. But rather than ignoring it entirely, I'm giving it a mention in this week's smorgasbord.

From the paper's abstract:

One hundred and fifty four children aged 8–11 completed questionnaires concerning their friendship groups, their eating and weight concerns, and their levels of anxiety. Children’s own scores on dietary restraint, body dissatisfaction, and external eating were significantly correlated with their friendship groups’ scores on dietary restraint. Child anxiety moderated the relationships between group dietary restraint and individual scores on external eating. Group levels of dietary restraint predicted higher levels of external eating in children with moderate or high anxiety. In pre-adolescent children, peer group levels of dietary restraint are related to individual eating and weight concerns. More anxious children may be more susceptible to peer influences on their eating behaviors.

I think this research accurately captures several aspects of why you sometimes see a ED contagion effect in peer groups: 1) a peer being fixated on food and weight can increase your own awareness and sensitivity to the subject, and 2) higher anxiety means you're more affected by your friend's fixations, and 3) higher anxiety puts you at high risk for an ED anyway. It's not that you can "catch" an eating disorder from a friend, but there does seem to be something happening that's more than what people would otherwise anticipate.

People who chew gum report feeling less stressed

It's no secret that gum-chewing is a common ED behavior. One of the many reasons that eating disordered people cite for chewing gum is that it helps you feel full, it gives your mouth something to do, it gives you fresh breath (there's no quicker way to raging halitosis than an eating disorder, let me tell you), and it can be used in place of liquids, for those of us whose phobias can extend in that direction. Not that any of these reasons are untrue, but they might not be telling the whole story.

New research has found that gum chewing can also decrease stress. The BPS Research Digest blog discusses a new study published in the journal Stress and Health titled "Chewing gum, stress, and health," which found that

39 per cent of respondents who reported never chewing gum were twice as likely to say they were extremely stressed at work, compared with gum chewers, and one and a half times as likely to say they were very or extremely stressed with life in general.

...What's more, chewing gum was also associated with better mental and physical health. Again, this remained true even after controlling for extraneous factors, such that gum chewers were less likely to have symptoms of depression and half as likely to have self-reported high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

It seems to me that gum chewing could help moderate anxiety in similar ways to nail biting and other repetitive behaviors. The researchers are currently working on a study to see whether encouraging people to chew gum will help them reduce their stress levels or just leave them with fantastic minty breath.

A Workout in a Shoe

A recent Well column in the New York Times tackled the issue of the new shoes you may have seen advertised that promises you a workout just by wearing them. The Reebok commercial in particular is horrid (you can see a review by Revolution of Real Women here), but I am curious to try them on and just see what they feel like.

Writes Tara Parker-Pope:

To support the claims, the shoemakers each offer company-financed exercise studies suggesting that the shoes produce a higher level of muscle engagement, at least in a controlled research setting.

...But the claim that the shoes offer muscle toning is backed by a single study involving just five people, not published in a peer-reviewed academic journal. In that study, done at the University of Delaware, five women walked on a treadmill for 500 steps wearing either the EasyTone or another Reebok walking shoe, and while barefoot. Using sensors that measure muscle activity, the researchers showed that wearing the EasyTone worked gluteal muscles an average of 28 percent more than regular walking shoes. Hamstring and calf muscles worked 11 percent harder.

...The shoes are designed only for walking, and because of the instability design, wearers are discouraged from running, jumping and engaging in other athletic activities while wearing them. So the real effect may come from simple awareness that they are wearing a muscle-activating shoe, causing them to walk more briskly and with purpose.

Ultimately? Save your money and just walk for the joy of it.

*I will try and find the actual research paper later this week, and I'll update the post if I do. I am running on about 1.5 hours of sleep right now, and my brain only has a little juice left. Since the actual research is less important than the point of better diagnoses for EDs, I'm hoping it will be okay.

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5 comments:

Cathy (UK) said...

All interesting articles - as usual Carrie :)

1. The gum study

I work my way through lots of gum - and have done for years. I had always attributed this to my obsession with having clean teeth, but I would agree that chewing DOES help me control my ever raging anxiety...

2. The 'work out' shoes

I bought a pair of these shoes - because they feel 'bouncy' under foot and need well cushioned shoes to protect my osteoporotic back. I wore them for a two mile walk and was in agony the next day - (with backache) and for the next 10 days. The shoes changed my walking gait to one that is very unnatural and seemed to pull muscles and joints out of alignment. From now on I will stick to my Nike Air Pegasus...

3. 'Hard' data to confirm the presence of mental illness

Fascinating stuff, but potentially worrying in the case of false positives/negatives... MRI scanning/functional neuro-imaging has been used to study activation of various regions of the brain to various sensory cues in people with anorexia nervosa and other neurologically based conditions such as autism. However, there is often a large variance in responses which could limit diagnostic application.

Personally, I dislike DSM and other means of 'putting people in boxes' on the basis of their behaviours. I have been following the development of DSM V for EDs in International Journal of EDs and am quite unhappy with some of the papers written by professional observers of ED patients (who have never had EDs themselves). There is over-use of 'validated questionnaires' and too much inference on the thinking patterns that underpin patients' behaviours. They would do well to include feedback and recommendations from those of us who have personal experience of EDs.

Anonymous said...

I've seen those shoes and refused to buy into the hype. Besides, they are hideous, and look like a sprained ankle waiting to happen. I'll stick to shoes I can run in. I'm glad Ms. Parker-Pope (about whose blog I have very mixed feelings) shed some light on the questionable claims of benefits.

As for gum chewing, it has ALWAYS made me more, not less, hungry. Go figure.

Adrianna said...

I can't honestly say I am offended by the Reebok commercials. They are simply too tacky for me to take seriously. In any case, my BS alarm went up right away. No shoe is going to make you slimmer, healthier, etc. It reminds me of women wearing corsets to reshape their figures and to make it harder to eat.

Anonymous said...

I don't have an ED but I have always been unable to eat when I am stressed or nervous. I had a problem at school (boarding special school in the UK), my peers would finish their meal much quicker than me and they would leave the table when they had finished. If I wanted to finish, I had to stay behind and miss out on what was going on. I hated sitting at the table on my own looking really unpopular. This led to vomiting involuntarily when I got nervous or when I felt too full. I always was a slow eater anyway and developed Crohn's at 15, which didn't help.

I was sooo unhappy at boarding school as I was bullied, and it wasn't until uni that I got my anxiety about eating in public on my own under control. I still hate it but I can do it without vomiting.

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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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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com



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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