Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a neuroprotective molecule known to be involved in neuroplasticity, learning and memory. Additionally, it may mitigate the effects of inflammation on the brain. There is inconclusive evidence as to whether reductions in BDNF found in AN are related to features associated with the illness such as changes in inflammatory markers and comorbidities, and whether they persist after recovery. This cross-sectional study measured BDNF and 36 inflammatory markers in the serum of individuals recovered from AN (rec-AN; n = 24), with acute AN (n = 56), and healthy controls (n = 51). We (a) compared BDNF concentrations between AN, rec-AN and controls including four pre-determined covariates; (b) assessed the relationship between BDNF and body mass index, eating disorder (ED) psychopathology and depression; and (c) correlated BDNF with inflammatory markers, stratified by group. The AN group showed reductions in BDNF compared to controls and rec-AN. BDNF was negatively associated with depression and ED psychopathology in the whole sample, but not the AN sample. BDNF was positively correlated with three inflammatory markers in the control group (interleukin (IL)-8, Eotaxin-3, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α) and negatively correlated with one (IL-16). The only pro-inflammatory marker associated with BDNF in the AN group was TNF-α, and no pro-inflammatory markers were associated with BDNF in the rec-AN group. These results indicate that BDNF serum concentrations may be a state marker of AN. In people with acute AN, BDNF levels seem to be linked to TNF-α signalling. However, BDNF concentrations do not appear to reflect AN symptom severity.
- Anorexia nervosa
- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
- Eating disorder
- Inflammatory marker