Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa and the Immune System—A Narrative Review

Journal of Clinical Medicine
By Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS Dennis Gibson, MD, FACP, CEDS

Research Asset


The pathogenesis of an increasing number of chronic diseases is being attributed to effects of the immune system. However, its role in the development and maintenance of anorexia nervosa is seemingly under-appreciated. Yet, in examining the available research on the immune system and genetic studies in anorexia nervosa, one becomes increasingly suspicious of the immune system’s potential role in the pathophysiology of anorexia nervosa. Specifically, research is suggestive of increased levels of various pro-inflammatory cytokines as well as the spontaneous production of tumor necrosis factor in anorexia nervosa; genetic studies further support a dysregulated immune system in this disorder. Potential contributors to this dysregulated immune system are discussed including increased oxidative stress, chronic physiological/psychological stress, changes in the intestinal microbiota, and an abnormal bone marrow microenvironment, all of which are present in anorexia nervosa.

Written by

Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS

Dr. Philip S. Mehler began his career at Denver Health more than 35 years ago and was formerly its Chief of Internal Medicine and then Denver Health’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) until he was promoted…
Written by

Dennis Gibson, MD, FACP, CEDS

Dennis Gibson, MD, FACP, CEDS serves as the Clinical Operations Director at ACUTE. Dr. Gibson joined ACUTE in 2017 and has since dedicated his clinical efforts to the life-saving medical care of…

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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