Exploring the Mechanisms of Recovery in Anorexia Nervosa through a Translational Approach: From Original Ecological Measurements in Human to Brain Tissue Analyses in Mice

Nutrients. 2021 Aug 13;13(8):2786. doi: 10.3390/nu13082786.


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a severe eating disorder where caloric restriction, excessive physical activity and metabolic alterations lead to life-threatening situations. Despite weight restoration after treatment, a significant part of patients experience relapses. In this translational study, we combined clinical and preclinical approaches. We describe preliminary data about the effect of weight gain on the symptomatology of patients suffering from acute AN (n = 225) and partially recovered (n = 41). We measured more precisely physical activity with continuous cardiac monitoring in a sub-group (n = 68). Using a mouse model, we investigated whether a long-term food restriction followed by nutritional recovery associated or not with physical activity may differentially impact peripheral and central homeostatic regulation. We assessed the plasma concentration of acyl ghrelin, desacyl ghrelin and leptin and the mRNA expression of hypothalamic neuropeptides and their receptors. Our data show an effect of undernutrition history on the level of physical activity in AN. The preclinical model supports an important role of physical activity in the recovery process and points out the leptin system as one factor that can drive a reliable restoration of metabolic variables through the hypothalamic regulation of neuropeptides involved in feeding behavior.

Keywords: animal model; anorexia nervosa; body mass index; ghrelin; heart rate; hypothalamus; leptin; neuropeptides; physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anorexia Nervosa / blood
  • Anorexia Nervosa / metabolism*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / rehabilitation*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Exercise*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Ghrelin / analogs & derivatives
  • Ghrelin / blood
  • Ghrelin / metabolism
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Leptin / blood
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Animal
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Recurrence
  • Weight Gain
  • Young Adult


  • Ghrelin
  • Leptin
  • Neuropeptides
  • RNA, Messenger
  • acyl-ghrelin
  • ghrelin, des-n-octanoyl