Symptoms of eating disorders are common in narcolepsy

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A recent study published in the March 1st issue of Sleep reveals some intriguing findings. According to the study, symptoms of eating disorders are common in narcolepsy. Specifically, half of the patients in the study that were reported to have narcolepsy had extreme and regular cravings for food and binge eating. 23.3% in the study possessed the criteria for a clinical eating disorder. According to Hal Droogleever Forluyn, MD, of Radboud University, nine of the patients had an form of binge-eating that was incomplete and categorized as “not otherwise specified,” four had bulimia nervosa, and one had anorexia. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:

Even if they did not fulfill criteria for a clinical diagnosis, the majority of narcoleptics had some of the symptoms of eating disorders. Compared with healthy controls, significantly more of the patients reported an irresistible and persistent craving for food (67% versus 5%) and some level of binge eating (55% versus 1%) (P<0.001 for both).

In a separate analysis comparing 32 narcoleptics with 32 controls matched for body mass index, the higher prevalence of symptoms of eating disorders in the sleep-disordered group remained.

More of the patients said they had persistent cravings for food (66% versus 13%, P<0.001) and experienced binge eating (66% versus 22%, P=0.002).

“These findings justify more attention for eating disorders in the treatment of patients with narcolepsy,” the researchers said.

An increase in body weight is a prominent symptom of narcolepsy, but few studies have looked at the prevalence of eating disorders in this population, they said.

So they recruited participants for two studies: one comparing patients with narcolepsy and its attendant loss of voluntary muscle control (cataplexy) with age- and sex-matched controls from the general population and the other comparing them with controls additionally matched for BMI. All patients met ICSD-2 diagnostic criteria for narcolepsy with cataplexy.

In the study comparing narcoleptics with healthy controls, the mean age for all participants was 43.5. Patients had a significantly higher mean BMI than the controls (27.8 ± 5.7 versus 24.6 ± 3.3 kg/m2, P=0.001).

Click here to read the rest of this article from Medpage Today

Click here for more information on eating disorders

Action point: It is important to be aware of the demographics and signs of eating disorders. Although not reflected in this particular study, eating disorders can strike individuals throughout the life span as a response to attempts to enhance self-image, image distortion, stress or anxiety, or the need to fit in, among others. It is important for people to love themselves and accept their bodies. Click on any of these key words to learn the signs of an eating disorder: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, compulsive overeating

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