From malnutrition to refeeding during anorexia nervosa

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Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common forms of malnutrition observed in Western society in individuals without physical diseases, with an average risk of mortality of 20% in a younger population aged between 15 and 25 years. It is characterised by an initial dramatic decrease in food intake that leads to profound depletion in muscle and fat mass. During the course of the disease, the resting energy expenditure decreases proportionally to the loss of lean body mass with a decrease in thyroid hormone secretion. The metabolic adaptation during anorexia nervosa is similar to that observed during starvation with a relative sparing of protein stores. After an initial weight loss, the total energy expenditure is similar to that in normal individuals, with a decrease in resting energy expenditure and an increased energy-related physical activity. At the end stage of wasting, however, physical activity dramatically decreases as well as energy intake. This metabolic adaptation of semi-starvation is impaired during refeeding with an increase in the thermic effect of food and a high risk of refeeding syndrome with severe hypophosphatemia.

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