Anorexia Linked to Emphysema

New research shows malnutrition caused by anorexia may contribute to emphysema.

Researchers from Vancouver General Hospital in Canada presented their findings at the 89th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. They used a new method of examining computed tomography scans to evaluate the lungs of patients with anorexia nervosa.

Researchers compared the CT scans of 14 patients with anorexia to 16 healthy patients. CT scans measure the absorbance of X-rays within the lung. Researchers converted these absorbance values into measurements of lung structure and compared them to clinical factors, such as body mass index. They found that malnutrition changes the physical structure of patients’ lungs. Patients with anorexia had less lung tissue, which helps deliver oxygen to the body, as compared to the control patients. Researchers say patients with emphysema experience similar reductions in lung tissue.

Harvey O. Coxson, Ph.D., from Vancouver General Hospital, says, “These results may influence the timing of nutritional support for anorexia patients to avoid or reverse this damage to the lung … If malnutrition causes emphysema in anorexic patients, it may contribute to emphysema in smokers.”

Previous studies have supported Coxson’s findings. According to researchers, a study conducted by Jewish physicians during the Nazi occupation showed more than 13 percent of people who died of starvation had emphysema, and 68 percent of them were under age 50. Researchers say this was a much higher rate of emphysema than would be expected in people younger than 50. This was the first study to link emphysema and malnutrition.

Now, Coxson say new technology is able to further investigate the link. He says, “Using CT, we are able to noninvasively assess the structure of the lung in living patients and study these disease processes early in their development.”

SOURCE: 89th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Chicago, Ill., Nov. 30 – Dec. 5, 2003

You may also like...