Saliva May Hold Clues to Undiagnosed Eating Disorders

Levels of two chemicals were particularly helpful.

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June Volume 26, Number 3
©2015 iaedp

Clues to an undetected eating disorder may literally be on the tip of the tongue, according to Dr. Ann-Katrin Johansson and a team of clinical dentists at the University of Bergen, Norway (Eur J Oral Sci. 2015; Mar 17. Doi:10.1111/eos.12179 [epub ahead of print]. Dr. Johansson and her colleagues recently compared the biochemical composition of saliva from 54 women and 4 male outpatients with eating disorders (mean age: 21.5 years). Fifty-four sex- and age-matched healthy controls were added from a dental health clinic. All participants in the study filled out a questionnaire, underwent dental examinations, and had laboratory analysis of their saliva. Hyposalivation, or low saliva production, was less common in the eating disorders group.

Significant differences were found

The composition of saliva was quite different in the two groups. Albumin, inorganic phosphate, aspartate aminotransferase (AST; formerly known as serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase, or SGOT), chloride, magnesium, and total protein levels were all significantly higher in the eating disorders group than in controls. The researchers were particularly interested in the higher-than-normal AST and total protein levels.
Statistical analyses (using logistic regression) showed that higher AST and total protein concentrations were relatively good predictors of an eating disorder (sensitivity, 65%; specificity, 67%). Thus, elevated salivary AST and total protein levels may be two more useful markers of an eating disorder.

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