come up with a new way to determine whether someone is
suffering from an eating disorder--examining their
A study released
Monday by researchers from Utah's Brigham Young
University found that examining carbon and nitrogen in the
proteins of hair could reveal information about a
person's day-to-day nutrition.
Lead author Kent
Hatch from the university's department of integrative
biology said clinicians could use this as a tool to help
diagnose such disorders as anorexia or bulimia because
many sufferers lie or do not recognize their problems.
Hatch said current methods used to diagnose and
monitor patients suffering from eating disorders rely
heavily on questionnaires and interviews.
waiting until it's extremely obvious that they've fallen
off the wagon, if you will, they might be able to take some
hair and see whether they've been sticking to the
treatment regime that has been prescribed for them,
rather than relying on the honesty of the person,"
Hatch told Reuters.
can be measured in head hair after a month of growth, and
the team is now looking at leg hair and beard growth as
well, which could show signs of changes in diet after
only six days.
Hair grows by
adding new proteins to the base of the strand and pushing
the strand up out of the hair follicle. The makeup of the
proteins is influenced by a person's nutrition at that
moment, researchers said.
published in the journal Rapid Communications in
Mass Spectrometry, compared the chemical pattern in
strands of hair between 20 young women seeking treatment for
eating disorders and 22 others with normal eating
analysis of the data enabled researchers to give an 80%
accurate prediction about whether a person had anorexia or
bulimia, the two most common eating disorders. The
test required only five stands of hair.
Doug Bunnell, a
board member of National Eating Disorders Association and
the clinical director of the Renfrew Center in Connecticut,
which specializes in eating disorders, said extra
evidence could help patients in the process of coming
to terms with their condition, because motivation for
treatment is key.
"What this might
be useful for is helping present a case to the patient
that she really has a disorder that is affecting her
physiological health, because one of the hallmarks of these
illnesses is denial," Bunnell said. (Reuters)