Serotonin, Dieting, and Bulimia Nervosa

  • P. J. Cowen
  • K. A. Smith
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 467)


Dieting is a common behaviour which may trigger eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa in predisposed subjects. We found that in healthy women moderate dieting for 3 weeks lowered plasma concentrations of the 5-HT precursor, L-tryptophan (TRP) and impaired brain 5-HT neurotransmission as judged by 5-HT neuroendocrine tests. In recovered female subjects with a history of bulimia nervosa we found that TRP depletion produced by an amino acid mixture lacking TRP caused a temporary return of depressive symptoms together with concerns about weight and shape and fear of loss of control of eating. Taken together the data suggest that dieting-induced decreases in TRP availability may trigger the development of bulimia nervosa is susceptible individuals.


Anorexia Nervosa Eating Disorder Binge Eating Bulimia Nervosa Amino Acid Mixture 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. J. Cowen
    • 1
  • K. A. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.University Department of PsychiatryWarneford HospitalOxfordUK

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