Plasma levels of one-carbon metabolism nutrients in women with anorexia nervosa

Int J Eat Disord. 2020 Sep;53(9):1534-1538. doi: 10.1002/eat.23292. Epub 2020 May 19.


Objective: People who are ill with anorexia nervosa (AN) show altered availability of key plasma nutrients. However, little is known about the patterning of alterations that occurs across diverse nutrients during active phases of illness or about the persistence of any such alterations following remission of illness.

Method: We compared plasma levels of one-carbon metabolism nutrients across women with active AN (AN-Active: n = 53), in remission from AN (AN-Remitted: n = 40), or who had no eating-disorder history (NED: n = 36). We also tested associations between body mass index (BMI) changes and changes in pre- to posttreatment nutrient levels, and explored the association between nutrient levels, on the one hand, and BMI and eating symptoms, on the other. Choline, betaine, and methionine were analyzed using mass spectrometry. Folate and B12 were analyzed using the AccuBind® ELISA kit. Eating-disorder symptoms were assessed by interview and self-report.

Results: Compared to NED individuals, AN-Active individuals exhibited significantly elevated B12 and (less-reliably) betaine. In AN-Active individuals, lower BMI was associated with higher B12.

Discussion: The observed alterations run contrary to the intuition that plasma nutrient levels should be directly responsive to nutritional status and suggest, instead, the existence of compensatory adaptations to malnutrition in individuals with active AN. Further study is required to clarify mechanisms that underlie such effects.

Keywords: B12; anorexia nervosa; choline; malnutrition; micronutrients; nutrigenomics; one-carbon metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / blood*
  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult


  • Carbon

Grant support