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.
asked byTravis_Culp (39821)
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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...
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).
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.
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.