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Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals recently published the findings of a study that suggests the use of high-calorie diets to treat anorexia patients.

The study suggests that anorexia patients should be fed diets rich in calories to facilitate faster recovery, shortening hospitalization duration. The study also suggests that the calories should be rapidly increased, contrary to the traditional approach where malnutrition patients initially receive low-calorie diets that slowly build up.

The study was split into two groups to observe the impact of calorie differences

The study’s conclusion is based on a randomized clinical trial conducted by the researchers where they enrolled 111 patients. The randomized clinical trial was conducted to explore refeeding strategies, and the subjects were divided into two groups. 51 out of the 111 patents participating in the study were young adults and adolescents who received 1,400 calories on the first day with 200 calorie increments every subsequent day.

The second clinical trial group featured 60 teens and young adults that received 2,000 calories on the first day with  200 calorie increments every day after that. The researchers also replaced uneaten food with a liquid formula containing a similar amount of calories as the uneaten food. The researchers observed that the patients admitted for medical conditions such as irregular heart rhythm, bradycardia, and low blood pressure recovered faster if they were in the higher calorie group. This meant that their hospitalization duration was shorter, thus their medical expenses were lower.

“We wanted to see if increased calories would improve these outcomes and still maintain safety,” stated Dr. Andrea Garber, who was the first author in the study.

Dr. Garber also noted that patients would previously spend weeks in hospital, and they would initially lose weight due to the low-calorie diets they were consuming. She pointed out that nearly half of the patients get readmitted a few months after being discharged. 63 out of the 111 patients in the study were diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, while 48 were diagnosed with atypical anorexia nervosa. Researchers also stated that no safety concerns regarding the high-calorie diets were observed.