We grow closer and closer to an understanding of the mechanisms underlying addictions, and with that knowledge we also learn about other illnesses. It is not new to think of eating disorders as addictions, but the connection has often been one of analogy, not brain function.
In a piece in Scientific American magazine, an interesting exploration of the underlying mechanisms that may be at play with anorexia nervosa:
"What is more, cultural cues cannot easily explain why the afflicted, who are shockingly skinny, misperceive themselves as fat. Anorexics also say they feel more energetic and alert when starving: starvation boosts their metabolic rate, which is in stark contrast to the slowing of metabolism that occurs in most people during a fast."
In particular, the use of evolutionary biology to explain how dietary restriction sets off very primal instincts in certain members of the population is an important contribution to our understanding of eating disorder. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this piece is the lack of discussion of the usual suspects in eating disorder etiology: overbearing parents and overpressured society.
It is clear that the cross pollination of several fields -- neurobiology, immunology, genetics, endrocrinology, and the behavioral sciences -- are helping to create a better sense of the human condition, health, and wellness.
Whether these findings will result in changes in treatment remains to be seen.