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Currently, there is limited understanding of the etiology of BN. While multifaceted etiology is likely, several neurobiological factors may play a role. Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a potential biomarker linked to eating and weight disorders, is one factor of recent investigation. This paper examined studies comparing BDNF blood levels in BN to healthy control (HC) subjects.Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted utilizing five databases (PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and Medline). Key terms included eating disorders, BDNF, and bulimia nervosa.Conclusions: BDNF blood levels appear lower in BN than in HC subjects; however, studies are needed to examine the influence of possible correlates including symptom severity, mood, medications, exercise, and substance use.

Bulimia nervosa (BN) is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of eating a large amount of food in a short period of time with a subjective experience of loss of control (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). The caloric content resulting from the binge episodes is then compensated in some way such as self-induced vomiting or laxative misuse (APA, 2013). The onset of the disorder typically occurs during adolescence or young adulthood and affects more women than men (Hudson, Hiripi, Pope, & Kessler, 2007). BN is associated with significant medical morbidity including electrolyte imbalances, dental erosion, and arrhythmias (Mehler, 2011). Currently there is limited understanding of the etiology of BN. Several biomarkers have been implicated in the etiology of BN, including brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (Nakazato, Hashimoto, Shimizu, Niitsu, & Iyo, 2012). The purpose of this review is to examine investigations to date to further elucidate the possible role of BDNF in BN.


Copyright 2014 Elsevier/WB Saunders

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Publication Title

Archives of Psychiatric Nursing

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Phillips, Kathryn, Kathleen Keane, & Barbara Wolfe. "Peripheral Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in Bulimia Nervosa: A Systematic Review", Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 2014, 28(2):108-113.