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Research on eating disorders: current status and future prospects

      Abstract

      This report summarizes the main themes addressed at a workshop on research on eating disorders (EDs), which was hosted by the National Institute of Mental Health in December 1998. Both basic behavioral neuroscientists and clinical investigators met in an effort to integrate areas of research and foster collaborations. Considerable advances have been made in understanding the neuroendocrinological mechanisms that regulate appetite and food intake. These achievements are in sharp contrast with the limited progress in elucidating the pathogenesis of EDs and developing effective treatment and preventive interventions. Anorexia nervosa remains a highly morbid condition with the highest mortality of any other psychiatric disorder. Besides acute refeeding techniques, no specific interventions have been proven effective in changing the long-term course of anorexia nervosa. Efficacious treatments exist for bulimia nervosa, but their underutilization calls for research on translating experimental findings into clinical practice. Closer interface between neuroscientists and clinical researchers is required for advancing our understanding of ED pathogenesis and developing effective treatments. Recent studies are suggestive of a substantial genetic contribution to EDs that deserves further investigation. Finally, there is an urgent need to examine risk and protective factors for EDs, on which safe and effective prevention can be built. Biol Psychiatry 2000;47:777–786

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