A potential new treatment for anorexia nervosa is being heralded as a temporary cure for the disorder.
Research coming out of Canada supports a treatment known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) that can be used to help those with eating disorders remain symptom-free for up to a year. The plan places a magnetic coil on the scalp to stimulate the brain's electrical circuits and turn up the part of the brain that helps strengthen self-control.
Researchers told Daily Mail the treatment has already proven effective in easing depression. They have also studied the effects of the treatment on a control group that exhibited signs of other eating disorders, like bulimia nervosa.
Researchers told Enstars as a clarification that the treatment is most effective for those with burge and purge symptoms, and less so for anorexics with food restriction. Since binge/purge behavior is associated with a lack of impulse control in bulimics (and anorexics that also binge and purge), the team thinks their treatment turns up their ability for self-regulation.
For the study, a coil was placed over the specific region of the brain on 20 patients who regularly engaged in binging and purging behaviors by eating large meals before taking extreme measures to then remove the food from their bodies, such as forced themselves to vomit. The group was treated five times a week for four weeks and about half saw an improvement in their symptoms. All remained free of the anorexia-related behaviors for at least three months and several were able to discontinue the acts for six months to a year.
The researchers, who are based at the University of Toronto, said rTMS therapy is considered safe and only has the drawback of being inconvenient to those receiving the treatment who are required to make regular hospital visits during the course of treatment.
They also caution that while the treatment may help those with anorexia strengthen their self-control, it does not stop them from restricting the amount of food they eat. There is currently no specific research that shows an effective means of treatment for that aspect of the disorder.
In the U.S. alone, an estimated 24 million men and women suffer from eating disorders. An estimated 480,000 people die each year from complications related to the various diseases in the spectrum, which include anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, body dysmorphic disorder and bulimia nervosa.
The spectrum of disorders affect approximately 70 million people worldwide, according to The National Eating Disorders Association. Those who are diagnosed with these disorders can also suffer from depression, anxiety and several other physical ailments as a result of the disorder.
So far the only kinds of treatments used in treating these disorders have included different types of therapy, inpatient and outpatient treatment programs at rehab clinics and hospitals, and re-feeding programs to help patients get back to ideal weights. While the treatments and therapies can be successful with some patients, several suffer from a relapse in behaviors.