Rats and anorexia

Are anorexic rats traumatized by the body ideal of our time? Do they need mental emergency relief - or zinc?

Once again, the issue of anorexia has been brought up in the media. The interpretation model of this disease is that today, the psychosocial pressure on young girls in the Western culture group, in particular, is so powerfully directed at having to live up to unattainable ideals of being slim and the success that is related to this that it distorts their self-perception and ambitions.

Individuals suffering from anorexia have a distorted perception of their own body which they believe to be fat and overweight despite the fact that they starv themselves and exercise in order for their weight to be drastically reduced and the outline of their ribs and bones start to appear beneath their skin. Paradoxically, anorexic patients are fully capable of estimating whether or not the weight of other people are within the normal range.

The disease incidence is increasing and although anorexia primarily affects young women from puberty and into their mid-twenties, there is also the experience that young men who move in circles where you are expected to be slim also suffer from anorexia. Even grandparents are increasingly affected by this disorder.

The orthodox treatment of anorexia focuses on interdisciplinary special groups of doctors, dieticians, and psychologists etc. as the disorder is categorized as a psychogenic disease. This is a consequence of the attitude stating that practically all diseases that are caracterized as being mental sufferings have some kind of psychological origin. Highly straining, negatively social, sexual, or other kinds of traumatizing experiences are regarded as being the main causes for mental sufferings. If this view is accepted, the logical consequence will follow: that these sufferings should be treated with similar remedies - psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and other related methods.

It is gratifying, of course, that these eating disorders are being given the attention they deserve as eating disorders are responsible for many unnecessary deaths. However, to which degree is it correct that anorexia has mental causes and should be treated from this point of view? Is there any scientific evidence that anorexia is a mental disorder with a psychological pattern of causation? Or is it just a working theory that has become magnified into cocksure scientific truth for lack of a better one?

Even though psychological factors that play somewhat of a part in the development of disease must not be disparaged, you might wonder why the research in the field all the way back to 1934 has been so totally ignored. It turned out that people are not the only species to suffer anorexia - white laboratory rats can also become anorexic.

It must be made clear that it is not the psychosocial pressure of the modern, dominating body ideal posing a stress factor that makes young women, men, grandparents, - and rats - mentally ill.

The question is then, if these patients and rats have something significant in common?

They actually do. Biochemical analyses reveal that the majority of the boys and girls, grandparents, and even rats suffer from various nutritional deficiencies and most prominent and dominating is zinc deficiency.

As mentioned, as early as in 1934 it was possible to demonstrate how rats in animal studies who were given a diet that was low in zinc lost their appetite, developed anorexia, and suffered delayed sexual maturation and skin problems: Classic signs of zinc deficiency.

Three years later, in 1937, rats were cured of anorexia with a zinciferous growth hormone. In 1966, some poor rats were once again inflicted with severe anorexia by excluding zinc from their diet. In some areas of Iran in which the population had a diet that was very low in zinc, reports of quite a number of cases of failing appetite were reported.

The researchers D. Bryce-Smith and R.I.D. Simpson were the first ones to demonstrate that anorexia can be cured with a zinc supplement. In 1978, this became increasingly tangible as it was demonstrated that a person who had a reduced zinc intake during the course of six months equalling a blood zinc level of 70 mcg. per 100 ml., would develop symptoms similar to anorexia. The average whole blood concentration of zinc is 88 mcg. per 100 ml. The study made other researchers conclude that in cases where there was a combination of growth retardation and reduced appetite, the patients should be examined for zinc deficiency.

The studies mentioned above are only a small selection.

Zinc is a constituent of 25 - 30 metabolic enzymes and more than 100 different brain enzymes in the body. The mineral is part of the protein synthesis and thereby the growth functions of the body. It is a constituent of the small "hinges" of the cells to which hormones can be attached and perform their effect. If your body is deficient in zinc, these and several other bodily functions will be affected and begin to go wrong and only work with reduced capacity.

It can be difficult to get sufficient amounts of zinc from your diet. Refined foodstuffs and poor-quality food not only contain small amounts of zinc, they also increase the body's zinc excretion. Stress consumes large amounts of zinc. People who exercise regularly also lose large amounts of zinc from sweating, just as very sexually active men lose large amounts of zinc in their semen. This is all worsened by the fact that we do not have any significant stores of zinc in our body.

Our body much more easily absorbs zinc from animal sources than from that of plants. Calcium and copper counteract the absorption of zinc. The same does vitamin B6 deficiency.

In short: You do not have to make much of an effort in order to subject yourself to zinc defiency.
And neither do you have to be a young woman with mental problems in order to incur anorexia.