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Ketamine as a Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa: A Narrative Review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4158
JournalNutrients
Volume13
Issue number11
Published20 Nov 2021

King's Authors

Abstract

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a highly complex disorder to treat, especially in severe and enduring cases. Whilst the precise aetiology of the disorder is uncertain, malnutrition and weight loss can contribute to reductions in grey and white matter of the brain, impairments in neuroplasticity and neurogenesis and difficulties with cognitive flexibility, memory and learning. Depression is highly comorbid in AN and may be a barrier to recovery. However, traditional antidepressants are often ineffective in alleviating depressive symptoms in underweight patients with AN. There is an urgent need for new treatment approaches for AN. This review gives a conceptual overview for the treatment of AN with ketamine. Ketamine has rapid antidepressant effects, which are hypothesised to occur via increases in glutamate, with sequelae including increased neuroplasticity, neurogenesis and synaptogenesis. This article provides an overview of the use of ketamine for common psychiatric comorbidities of AN and discusses particular safety concerns and side effects. Potential avenues for future research and specific methodological considerations are explored. Overall, there appears to be ample theoretical background, via several potential mechanisms, that warrant the exploration of ketamine as a treatment for adults with AN.

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