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IUBMB Life. 2012 May;64(5):355-61. doi: 10.1002/iub.1012. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

Possible involvement of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in eating disorders.

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  • 1Research Center for Child Mental Development, Chiba University Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba, Japan.


Eating disorders (EDs) manifest as abnormal patterns of eating behavior and weight regulation driven by low self-esteem due to weight preoccupation and perceptions toward body weight and shape. Two major groups of such disorders are anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). The etiology of EDs is complex and evidence indicates that both biological/genetic and psychosocial factors are involved. Several lines of evidence indicate that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a critical role in regulating eating behaviors and cognitive impairments in the EDs. BDNF is involved in neuronal proliferation, differentiation, and survival during development. BDNF and its tyrosine kinase receptor (TrkB) are expressed in hypothalamic nuclei associated with eating behaviors. A series of studies using BDNF knockout mice and the human BDNF gene indicate an association of BDNF and EDs with predisposition and vulnerability. In the previous studies, serum BDNF levels in subjects with EDs are reduced significantly compared with healthy controls, hence, we proposed that levels of serum BDNF would be a useful diagnostic indicator for EDs.

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