Anorexia is complicated thing, and treating it can be very tricky. But now, a new study suggests what might be the best method for treating people who have been hospitalized as a result of the eating disorder. For years doctors have disagreed about whether or not the dangerously thin patients should immediately be given lots of high calorie food or whether a more gradual approach should be taken. New research out of the University of California, San Francisco says that the faster approach is the way to go, at least at first.
It turns out that patients who are fed according to slower, low-calorie regiments in the beginning of their hospital stay wind up needing an average of six extra days before being discharged, and rarely gain any weight during the first eight days of their stay. In some cases, they actually lose more weight before they begin gaining it back.
Still, there are risks associated with such treatments, including “refeeding syndrome,” a potentially fatal disorder involving fluid and hormone imbalances that can occur when a person suddenly ingests large amounts of food after a period of starvation.
Additionally, even though anorexia patients fed an aggressive, high-calorie diet from the outset can gain weight almost twice as fast, this rapid weight loss could conceivably have negative psychological effects. After all, anorexia is primarily a mental disorder, and the mental disorder with the highest mortality rate. Much about its causes and treatments remain uncertain. With any luck, however, researchers will continue to learn more and more about the best ways to combat the problem.