Context: The endocrinopathies associated with eating disorders involve multiple systems and mechanisms designed to preserve energy and protect essential organs. Those systems that are most affected are in need of significant energy, such as the reproductive and skeletal systems. The changes in neuropeptides and in the hypothalamic axis that mediate these changes also receive input from neuroendocrine signals sensitive to satiety and food intake and in turn may be poised to provide significant energy conservation. These adaptive changes are described, including the thyroid, GH, and cortisol axes, as well as the gastrointestinal tract.
Evidence acquisition: Articles were found via PubMed search for both original articles and reviews summarizing current understanding of the endocrine changes of eating disorders based on peer review publications on the topic between 1974 and 2009.
Conclusion: The signals that control weight and food intake are complex and probably involve multiple pathways that appear to have as a central control the hypothalamus, in particular the medial central area. The hypothalamic dysfunction of eating disorders provides a reversible experiment of nature that gives insight into understanding the role of various neuropeptides signaling nutritional status, feeding behavior, skeletal repair, and reproductive function.