7

votes

Does Zinc Deficiency Cause Anorexia Nervosa to Spiral Out of Control?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 10, 2011 at 7:31 PM

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/1098-108X%28199404%2915:3%3C251::AID-EAT2260150308%3E3.0.CO;2-%23/abstract

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3312133

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11930982/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0447.1990.tb11077.x/abstract

http://www.ajcn.org/content/44/4/581.full.pdf

I don't know much at all about eating disorders, but it seems like they could start out with a desire to restrict calories, with a probable focus on meat and other typically fat-rich foods, which would restrict zinc intake. Most anorexics are menstruating females (at least at first) and many exercise heavily, both of which exacerbate a zinc deficiency. Once in place, that deficiency leads to dysgeusia, or a distortion in the sense of taste and smell, which would make food in general less palatable and cause zinc intake to be further restricted.

I don't know anyone with AN, but if I did I would definitely recommend zinc supplementation. Most notable in the aforementioned papers is how, after some months of zinc supplementation, menstruation returns, even if it was absent for years.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

Trader joes sells canned smoked oysters in olive oil. I eat them once or twice a week.

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on September 13, 2011
at 10:38 AM

BeingVenus: Thanks, they seem quite low in nutrition to me. Do you think its worth to be eatin them? I rather not eat anything from can unless they are really worth while, like oysters.

957a563c7e4a165663fd3c71207c39da

on September 13, 2011
at 05:44 AM

There is an interesting book I'm reading at the moment all about copper overload called "Why Am I always so tired?" by Ann Louise Gittleman. She identifies vegetarian diets as being very problematic in pinpointing that as a major cause of copper overload in the body. Copper IUDs were another of her "avoid" items. You can easily and cheaply get your copper/zinc status tested by blood. I would recommend finding a knowledgeable doc and getting some testing done if you can. My friend has had bulimia for two years - I think hers' may be contributed to by low protein (causing neurotransmitter issue)

957a563c7e4a165663fd3c71207c39da

on September 13, 2011
at 05:38 AM

I agree that all of the minerals may be absorbed - my issue is with the ratio of copper to zinc. If the intention is to increase zinc levels, then eating something with more copper than zinc is not helpful because copper is a zinc antagonist. It's not relevant that there is some zinc in there that will be absorbed. The high copper content negates the benefits of the zinc.

Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on September 11, 2011
at 09:05 PM

I don't know if it works with tablets, since there will be other ingredients present. I have only done this test with the liquid form.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on September 11, 2011
at 05:52 PM

The fact that I had to go brush my teeth to get rid if the horrible bitter taste of the zinc pill I accidentally bit down on last week is a good sign, then?

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on September 11, 2011
at 05:50 PM

Agreeing with Kaz; almost all my friends with history of ED are in recovery but still vegetarian or vegan, obsessed with eating low-fat, and EXTREMELY committed to their WOL. I preach PaNu to them, but gently. And I do eat liver (but not too much because with all the grass-fed dairy I eat my retinol intake is off the charts!) and oysters on the regular. Some seeds are pretty good sources, but then, phytates...

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on September 11, 2011
at 03:51 PM

Here's the nutrition facts for canned cod livers from a Danish nutrition site. http://www.foodcomp.dk/v7/fcdb_details.asp?FoodId=0314

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on September 11, 2011
at 07:33 AM

I will try to find some good places on internet to order a batch of canned oysters in olive oil. Here they only have some sort of canned one with soybeanoil or sunfloweroil. Only thing i eat canned is whole cod liver. I have no idea what kind of nutrition it has.

74f5d2ff6567edd456d31dfb9b92af61

(5227)

on September 11, 2011
at 03:59 AM

I think you may have it a bit confused. It's not the veg*nism that causes the ED -- the veg*nism is a manifestation of it. I have yet to meet a single person who has eschewed meat that isn't either trying to recover or still actively disordered. It's a way of restricting, to control one's intake. That's why there's such a high correlation between veg*nism and eating disorders, not the converse. (Of course, not all veg*ns are hiding an ED -- I don't wish to imply that -- but every. single. one. that I've met used it for that purpose.)

74f5d2ff6567edd456d31dfb9b92af61

(5227)

on September 11, 2011
at 03:59 AM

I think you have it a bit confused. It's not the veg*nism that causes the ED -- the veg*nism is a manifestation of it. I have yet to meet a single person who has eschewed meat that isn't either trying to recover or still actively disordered. It's a way of restricting, to control one's intake. That's why there's such a high correlation between veg*nism and eating disorders, not the converse. (Of course, not all veg*ns are hiding an ED -- I don't wish to imply that -- but every. single. one. that I've met used it for that purpose.)

74f5d2ff6567edd456d31dfb9b92af61

(5227)

on September 11, 2011
at 03:58 AM

Travis, I think you have it confused. It's not the veg*nism that causes the ED -- the veg*nism is a manifestation of it. I have yet to meet a single person who has eschewed meat that isn't either trying to recover or still actively disordered. It's a way of restricting, to control one's intake. That's why there's such a high correlation between veg*nism and eating disorders, not the converse. (Of course, not all veg*ns are hiding an ED -- I don't wish to imply that -- but every. single. one. that I've met used it for that purpose.)

C471216c9fb4fcf886b7ac84a4046b49

(1371)

on September 11, 2011
at 03:51 AM

....zinc did no help or enhance my recovery/suffering... katherine made a good point BIGGGG difference between the symptom and the disease

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on September 10, 2011
at 10:28 PM

@Jan - how did you cook it? Were you able to just buy the liver or are you friends with hunters? I ask because I've only been able to find wild venison meat in the shops so far, but would love to try the liver of a truly wild animal.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on September 10, 2011
at 10:23 PM

If zinc deficient, the added vegetable oils would be irrelevant if they stand in the way of repletion.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on September 10, 2011
at 10:22 PM

Even when copper-rich foods like liver are eaten, some zinc and iron are absorbed. It's a net positive effect. In 100g of lamb liver, there is 10.2mg Fe, 5.6mg Zn and 9.8mg Cu. They're all competing for absorption, but some of each is being absorbed. What's important with organ consumption is to eat small amounts frequently rather than all 100g at once so that absorption is bottlenecked to the smallest extent.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on September 10, 2011
at 10:21 PM

Even when liver is eaten, some copper is absorbed. It's a net positive effect. In 100g of lamb liver, there is 10.2mg Fe, 5.6mg Zn and 9.8mg Cu. They're all competing for absorption, but some of each is being absorbed. What's important with organ consumption is to eat small amounts frequently rather than all 100g at once so that absorption is bottlenecked to smallest extent.

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on September 10, 2011
at 08:23 PM

Last winter i eat like one kilo of deer liver in a week, that wasnt propably very smart, i am sure it was loaded with vitamins, more than beef or lamb liver. It was so amazingly good tasting that i couldnt restrain myself. It tasted like forrest, lingonberries and blueberries. About the best meat i have ever eaten :)

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on September 10, 2011
at 08:22 PM

Its sometimes hard to find good sources for zinc. Cant find fresh oysters in this part of the world, canned ones are filled with vegetable oils :(. Liver is ofcourse easy to find and delicious but i am still scared of its astronomical vitamin a. I try to eat it twice a week.

Eecc48184707bc26bce631485b5b7e34

(4764)

on September 10, 2011
at 08:15 PM

It can take quite a bit of zinc to replete stores but then there is that tricky zinc:copper issue. It may be best, if one is willing to (ie not anorexic) eat liver once a week (3 or so oz), eat other organs like brain, thymus/pancreas (sweetbreads), spleen, kidney once a day (3 or so oz)and eat oysters once a week.

Eecc48184707bc26bce631485b5b7e34

(4764)

on September 10, 2011
at 08:13 PM

Zinc deficiency is a cause of anorexia - anorexia the "symptom" rather than Anorexia Nervosa. And I absolutely think zinc deficiency is involved in the etiology of all eating disorders - both the under and the overeating ones.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on September 10, 2011
at 08:11 PM

Yeah, I think one of those links said that half of the people with AN are vegetarians. Nearly all vegetarian diets have a terrible phytate:zinc molar ratio. I don't believe that it is a coincidence at all. You ought to pass the word onto anyone you know who is or was anorexic and maybe this could help. Hope things normalize for you soon.

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5 Answers

4
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on September 10, 2011
at 07:54 PM

This has always been an extra-interesting subject to me, since I have a history of disordered eating/low appetite along with anxiety and depression (but not a diagnosable 'eating disorder' since I have never felt I should lose weight or restricted my intake for that reason) starting as young as 4 or 5, and I have had friends who suffer from more general disordered eating like mine, as well as AN, bulimia, and compulsive overeating (sometimes all three at different times in their life).

Thank you for all the links. It seems there is very much a physical aspect to AN especially, but I don't know if I could assume zinc is the deciding factor. However it is absolutely worth noting that many, many girls and women start their descent in AN by becoming vegetarian. Whether this is a partial cause of developing more severe symptoms, or simply a logical first step into a mental illness involving obsession with food and self-deprivation, it's hard to tell.

Have you ever looked into the available data on starvation among POW and neglected children, and also the relatively few 'starvation studies'? Forced starvation can trigger a full-blown eating disorder in some (susceptible?) individuals, with the typical symptoms of guilt, shame, obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviors, and starving themselves, binging, purging, and hoarding/hiding food well after the actual food scarcity is over. Fascinating and scary.

Right now in fact I am going through an episode of 'anorexia' (lack of appetite/desire for food, not anorexia nervosa) and weight loss, due to relationship/emotional problems which were contributing to anxiety and depression. Things are looking up between me and my boyfriend (in fact I suppose I might call him my fiance now), and I am trying to get back on my old meal plan and work out schedule, and feeling much more desirous of food than I have in months.

I am taking a zinc supplement every day for a few weeks now (usually I only take one 2-3 times per week) since I'm not eating the volume of red meat I usually do, also because I've been getting a few pimples (noooo! return of the acne!). Haven't noticed it perking my appetite. Pretty sure I am not currently and haven't been deficient in zinc since I started with paleo two years ago...

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on September 10, 2011
at 08:23 PM

Last winter i eat like one kilo of deer liver in a week, that wasnt propably very smart, i am sure it was loaded with vitamins, more than beef or lamb liver. It was so amazingly good tasting that i couldnt restrain myself. It tasted like forrest, lingonberries and blueberries. About the best meat i have ever eaten :)

Eecc48184707bc26bce631485b5b7e34

(4764)

on September 10, 2011
at 08:15 PM

It can take quite a bit of zinc to replete stores but then there is that tricky zinc:copper issue. It may be best, if one is willing to (ie not anorexic) eat liver once a week (3 or so oz), eat other organs like brain, thymus/pancreas (sweetbreads), spleen, kidney once a day (3 or so oz)and eat oysters once a week.

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on September 10, 2011
at 08:22 PM

Its sometimes hard to find good sources for zinc. Cant find fresh oysters in this part of the world, canned ones are filled with vegetable oils :(. Liver is ofcourse easy to find and delicious but i am still scared of its astronomical vitamin a. I try to eat it twice a week.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on September 11, 2011
at 03:51 PM

Here's the nutrition facts for canned cod livers from a Danish nutrition site. http://www.foodcomp.dk/v7/fcdb_details.asp?FoodId=0314

74f5d2ff6567edd456d31dfb9b92af61

(5227)

on September 11, 2011
at 03:59 AM

I think you may have it a bit confused. It's not the veg*nism that causes the ED -- the veg*nism is a manifestation of it. I have yet to meet a single person who has eschewed meat that isn't either trying to recover or still actively disordered. It's a way of restricting, to control one's intake. That's why there's such a high correlation between veg*nism and eating disorders, not the converse. (Of course, not all veg*ns are hiding an ED -- I don't wish to imply that -- but every. single. one. that I've met used it for that purpose.)

Medium avatar

(39821)

on September 10, 2011
at 10:23 PM

If zinc deficient, the added vegetable oils would be irrelevant if they stand in the way of repletion.

74f5d2ff6567edd456d31dfb9b92af61

(5227)

on September 11, 2011
at 03:58 AM

Travis, I think you have it confused. It's not the veg*nism that causes the ED -- the veg*nism is a manifestation of it. I have yet to meet a single person who has eschewed meat that isn't either trying to recover or still actively disordered. It's a way of restricting, to control one's intake. That's why there's such a high correlation between veg*nism and eating disorders, not the converse. (Of course, not all veg*ns are hiding an ED -- I don't wish to imply that -- but every. single. one. that I've met used it for that purpose.)

74f5d2ff6567edd456d31dfb9b92af61

(5227)

on September 11, 2011
at 03:59 AM

I think you have it a bit confused. It's not the veg*nism that causes the ED -- the veg*nism is a manifestation of it. I have yet to meet a single person who has eschewed meat that isn't either trying to recover or still actively disordered. It's a way of restricting, to control one's intake. That's why there's such a high correlation between veg*nism and eating disorders, not the converse. (Of course, not all veg*ns are hiding an ED -- I don't wish to imply that -- but every. single. one. that I've met used it for that purpose.)

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on September 11, 2011
at 05:50 PM

Agreeing with Kaz; almost all my friends with history of ED are in recovery but still vegetarian or vegan, obsessed with eating low-fat, and EXTREMELY committed to their WOL. I preach PaNu to them, but gently. And I do eat liver (but not too much because with all the grass-fed dairy I eat my retinol intake is off the charts!) and oysters on the regular. Some seeds are pretty good sources, but then, phytates...

Medium avatar

(39821)

on September 10, 2011
at 08:11 PM

Yeah, I think one of those links said that half of the people with AN are vegetarians. Nearly all vegetarian diets have a terrible phytate:zinc molar ratio. I don't believe that it is a coincidence at all. You ought to pass the word onto anyone you know who is or was anorexic and maybe this could help. Hope things normalize for you soon.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

Trader joes sells canned smoked oysters in olive oil. I eat them once or twice a week.

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on September 10, 2011
at 10:28 PM

@Jan - how did you cook it? Were you able to just buy the liver or are you friends with hunters? I ask because I've only been able to find wild venison meat in the shops so far, but would love to try the liver of a truly wild animal.

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on September 11, 2011
at 07:33 AM

I will try to find some good places on internet to order a batch of canned oysters in olive oil. Here they only have some sort of canned one with soybeanoil or sunfloweroil. Only thing i eat canned is whole cod liver. I have no idea what kind of nutrition it has.

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on September 13, 2011
at 10:38 AM

BeingVenus: Thanks, they seem quite low in nutrition to me. Do you think its worth to be eatin them? I rather not eat anything from can unless they are really worth while, like oysters.

2
Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on September 11, 2011
at 06:03 AM

I learned a simple test to determine if someone has sufficient levels of zinc. Aqueous Zinc is swished in the mouth for thirty seconds. If there is a strong, unpleasant taste immediately, there are sufficient levels of zinc in the body. The longer it takes to taste anything is an indicator of how deficient in zinc the body is. When supplementing with zinc, this taste test can be done periodically to determine when sufficient levels of zinc have been restored. Anyone recovering from an eating disorder should do this simple test, and every person I've worked with in recovery from an ED has definitely been extremely deficient in zinc(aqueous zinc tastes like water).

Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on September 11, 2011
at 09:05 PM

I don't know if it works with tablets, since there will be other ingredients present. I have only done this test with the liquid form.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on September 11, 2011
at 05:52 PM

The fact that I had to go brush my teeth to get rid if the horrible bitter taste of the zinc pill I accidentally bit down on last week is a good sign, then?

0
724ba4f39f7bbea7f74b45c0a79615f2

on November 29, 2011
at 07:25 PM

I think there might definitely be something to this. I know a lot of people (re: Kaz, above) are convinced that veganism or vegetarianim post-dates ED symptoms, but that's definitely not always true, certainly not in my case, and I know a good number of vegan/vegetarians who don't have ED and aren't trying to diet (many of the women are hard-core health at any size folks).

I was a slightly chubby vegan for years, a slightly chubby vegetarian for more years after that, and never dieted or had any ED symptoms, and I always thought I was pretty attractive despite the chub and just didn't think about food very much (being veg in seattle is extremely easy). THEN, after being meat-free for 17 years, I developed ED symptoms very suddenly. Even though I was suddenly doing crazy things to my body in the name of being skinny, I refused to eat meat, even though I was well aware that doing so (trading carbs for meat) would make me leaner.

When I did start eating meat again, it wasn't to make me leaner, it was to cure me of my ED, so I wouldn't feel the obsessive need to be lean anymore or obsess about food anymore. I definitely hit the point where I felt like my thoughts and behaviors just weren't me, and they came up so suddenly and were so severe that I thought it might be diet-related.

And I think it was. I started eating meat again, and it worked. Really, really well, relatively quickly. All the obsessiveness, the conviction that I looked better emaciated, but was still never emaciated enough, the restricting, the bingeing and purging, it just sort of went away. And I definitely think the fact that many anorexics end up bulemics may have to do with the body overriding the brain to force-feed the person in an attempt to make up for long-standing nutrient deficiencies, which may explain why a lot of the food choices of former-anorexic bingers can often seem so bizarre.

So, I think some kind of nutrient deficiency can definitely cause any number of ED symptoms in pretty much anyone (see, e.g., the starvation experiments animalcule talked about above).

This isn't to say all ED is caused by nutrient deficiency, of course, and I think animalcule's experience speaks to that.

0
1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

on September 11, 2011
at 03:20 AM

Interesting. I noticed that in the past month or two my binge eating symptoms (which mostly went away since I went paleo 8 months ago) have been returning. I was originally thinking it was just diet fatigue/ boredom and then after reading this, I realized that I got my copper IUD put in about 2 months ago. I wonder if it's causing an imbalance. I'm definitely going to try supplementing and see if it helps.

Just to help, I had bulimia nervosa while vegetarian (with a year or two vegan stint) as a teenager and then just a binge eating disorder after college. I was on again off again vegetarian until I discovered WAPF 10 months ago.

957a563c7e4a165663fd3c71207c39da

on September 13, 2011
at 05:44 AM

There is an interesting book I'm reading at the moment all about copper overload called "Why Am I always so tired?" by Ann Louise Gittleman. She identifies vegetarian diets as being very problematic in pinpointing that as a major cause of copper overload in the body. Copper IUDs were another of her "avoid" items. You can easily and cheaply get your copper/zinc status tested by blood. I would recommend finding a knowledgeable doc and getting some testing done if you can. My friend has had bulimia for two years - I think hers' may be contributed to by low protein (causing neurotransmitter issue)

0
957a563c7e4a165663fd3c71207c39da

on September 10, 2011
at 10:10 PM

Organ meats can have high copper, so eating those to increase zinc will not help. It will increase the copper:zinc ratio in the body, exacerbating any zinc deficiency or copper overload.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on September 10, 2011
at 10:21 PM

Even when liver is eaten, some copper is absorbed. It's a net positive effect. In 100g of lamb liver, there is 10.2mg Fe, 5.6mg Zn and 9.8mg Cu. They're all competing for absorption, but some of each is being absorbed. What's important with organ consumption is to eat small amounts frequently rather than all 100g at once so that absorption is bottlenecked to smallest extent.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on September 10, 2011
at 10:22 PM

Even when copper-rich foods like liver are eaten, some zinc and iron are absorbed. It's a net positive effect. In 100g of lamb liver, there is 10.2mg Fe, 5.6mg Zn and 9.8mg Cu. They're all competing for absorption, but some of each is being absorbed. What's important with organ consumption is to eat small amounts frequently rather than all 100g at once so that absorption is bottlenecked to the smallest extent.

957a563c7e4a165663fd3c71207c39da

on September 13, 2011
at 05:38 AM

I agree that all of the minerals may be absorbed - my issue is with the ratio of copper to zinc. If the intention is to increase zinc levels, then eating something with more copper than zinc is not helpful because copper is a zinc antagonist. It's not relevant that there is some zinc in there that will be absorbed. The high copper content negates the benefits of the zinc.

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