OBJECTIVES: Appetite is a subjective essential sense. In patients with severe anorexia nervosa (AN), controversy remains whether this sensation is altered. The objectives were to clarify, in patients with severe AN: (1) Whether the appetite changes during partial weight restoration, (2) Whether potential changes in appetite are related to (i) diagnostic subtype of AN, (ii) psychopharmacological treatment, (iii) disease duration, (iv) duration of hospitalization, and (v) baseline body mass index (BMI).
METHODS: The study consisted of 39 patients, with a mean age of 23.7 ± 8 and an admission mean BMI of 13.1 ± 2.0 kg/m2. The patients were consecutively admitted to a specialized somatic nutrition unit between 2015 and 2016. They were asked to rate their hunger and satiety on a numeric visual analog scale (VAS), before and after a lunch meal at admission and at discharge in the same standardized environment. The patients could participate more than once if readmitted, resulting in a total of 119 observed meals. Data were analyzed in a regression model for repeated measures.
RESULTS: At admission, changes in hunger and satiety perception were weak. After weight gain of 10.4% ± 8.5% within a median of 26 (IQR: 25) days, there was a slight increase in hunger perception, p = 0.049. However, there was no detectable change in satiety perception. There was no noticeable correlation between appetite change and psychopharmacological treatment, diagnostic subtype, BMI, duration of hospitalization, and disease duration.
CONCLUSION: Hospitalized patients with severe AN exhibit strikingly weak changes in hunger and satiety perception during standardized and supervised meals.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level IV, evidence obtained from multiple time series analysis.