Larger hippocampus size in women with anorexia nervosa who exercise excessively than healthy women

Psychiatry Res. 2015 May 30;232(2):193-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2014.10.013. Epub 2014 Oct 22.


Exercise has been shown to increase hippocampal volume in healthy older adults. Observations from animal models of diabetes and hypertension suggest that the combination of exercise and caloric restriction may exert greater neuroprotection in the hippocampus than either behavior alone. Yet, in humans, the effects of exercise and caloric restriction on the hippocampus are not known. We measured the volume of the hippocampus prior to clinical treatment in women with anorexia nervosa (AN) who were restricting calories and engaging in excessive exercise, women with AN who did not exercise excessively, and healthy women who did not engage in either behavior. Women with AN were also examined longitudinally (once weight was restored and 6 months later). In the present report, we found that women with AN engaged in caloric restriction and excessive exercising prior to clinical treatment had larger hippocampal volumes than healthy comparison women. After weight restoration, women with AN who had engaged in food restriction and excessive exercise prior to treatment had hippocampal volumes similar to that of women with AN who only engaged in caloric restriction. These results advance the field by showing for the first time that hippocampal volume may be increased by exercise alone or exercise interacting with food restriction in AN.

Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; Caloric restriction; Eating disorders; Exercise; Hippocampus; Neuroimaging.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anorexia Nervosa* / psychology
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Young Adult