Anorexia Nervosa

A new conceptual model for anorexia nervosa: A role for connective tissue?

International Journal of Eating Disorders
By Dennis Gibson, MD, FACP, CEDS Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS


The etiology of anorexia nervosa (AN) remains to be fully elucidated, and current theories also fail to account for the direct effect of starvation on the health of the organs and tissues, specifically the connective tissue present in most organs of the body. Individuals with hereditary disorders of connective tissue manifest with clinical symptoms that overlap with AN, as the abnormal connective tissue also contributes to many of the other extra-articular manifestations of these hereditary disorders. This article hypothesizes that a similar pathophysiology may also contribute to the clinical presentation of AN. Therefore, a better understanding is needed to elucidate: (1) the relationship between abnormal connective tissue and AN, (2) the impact of starvation toward the development of abnormal connective tissue and how this manifests clinically, (3) the etiology of autonomic nervous system changes contributing to the dysautonomia in AN, and (4) how the sensory signals sent from potentially abnormal connective tissue to the central nervous system impact interoception in AN. A conceptual model incorporating abnormal connective tissue is provided. PUBLIC SIGNIFICANCE: The etiology of AN remains poorly understood and current theories fail to account for the direct impact of starvation on the health of the organs and tissues of the body. There is significant clinical overlap between AN and hereditary connective tissue disorders. This paper attempts to provide a new conceptual model for AN in which abnormal connective tissue contributes to the underlying pathogenesis.

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…
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…

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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