WILMINGTON -- This is eating disorders awareness week. A new study shows anorexic women may experience taste differently than others. Whether it's pasta so good you eat it with your hands, or a tray of fresh pastries screaming your name, most people find it hard to resist food. But there are some who are too good at it. Sports journalist Karen Pearlman is healthy now, but as a teenager she was anorexic. Pearlman said, "I remember eating a lot of gum. And not really caring about what I ate --just the least amount possible." Psychiatrist Walter Kaye wanted to know whether people with anorexia experience food differently. He described his study of recovered anorexics like Pearlman in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. He and colleagues used MRI scanners to study brain activity in response to tasting sugar water. They found that former anorexics had less activity in the brain area that recognizes taste, compared with women who had never had eating disorders. Kaye said, "Food may not be as rewarding as it is to people without an eating disorder. And this may very well explain why they're able to not eat and lose so much weight." Pearlman hopes the findings increase people's compassion toward those with anorexia. "I think it's a very misunderstood and of course debilitating illness," she said. And Kaye believes that understanding the physical basis of anorexia will lead to more effective treatments and success stories. Kaye has worked with anorexics for 30 years. He says that it has the highest death rate of any psychiatric disorder.
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