apparently, a protein called 5-HT4R. this is really great news for scientists, as it solidifies the claim that anorexia is a disease, and gives them a substantial way to look for a cure. basically, research has found that people become addicted to not eating, and get a sort of seratonin high or rewarded feeling from refraining from food, in the same way as ecstasy users. as an anorexia survivor, i relate very solidly to this information. further information is discussed here, from reuters, and earlier in the year from the telegraph.
what does this mean to those suffering from the disease? well, if scientists can find ways to block the 5-HT4R receptors in the brain, then theoretically, anorexics would no longer get that addictive high from not eating (and conversely, the punishment and depressive feelings that result from ingesting food.)
this is most certainly not to say that if a suitable pill is manufactured that those afflicted would be miraculously cured. therapy is an essential aspect to successful treatment. i can't emphasize that enough. without being able to get to the root of your problems, you can never escape them. i truly believe that we are a society of quick-fixes and cure-all elixirs, obsessed with harder, bigger, faster, more. recovery takes time. that's why, almost ten years cured from my disease, i still fight it everyday. each bite of food that goes into my mouth, i have to work not to calculate calories, fat grams, look at what's on my plate. when i dress in the morning, i have to repeat mantras over and over again that i'm not fat, that the dress WASN'T looser on me the last time i wore it, etc. i'm at a healthy weight, even if i look in the mirror and don't see it. i enjoy food now, instead of obsessing over it. and i owe so much of that to the doctors that helped me what seems like a lifetime ago.
but just like alcoholism, you have to take things one day at a time. eating disorders are more serious, imho, though, because you can remove alcohol from your diet and place yourself in situations where it's not present. no one can just remove food from their diet ~ that's the basis of the problem! without it, you die. with it, you obsess. not to minimize the seriousness of alcoholism, but that's my stance. so hopefully, 5-HT4 will become a positive supplement to anorexia, and many more people can get help.