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Hyperamylasemia in Patients with Eating Disorders

LAURIE L. HUMPHRIES, M.D.; LINAS J. ADAMS, M.D.; JOHN H. ECKFELDT, M.D., Ph.D.; MIKE D. LEVITT, M.D.; and CRAIG J. McCLAIN, M.D.
[+] Article and Author Information

Grant support: by grant R01 MH 40464-01A1 from the National Institute of Mental Health, and grants from the Veterans Administration and McKnight Foundation.

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Craig J. McClain, M.D.; MN 654, University of Kentucky Medical Center, 800 Rose Street; Lexington, KY 40536-0084.


Lexington, Kentucky; and Minneapolis, Minnesota


© 1987 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1987;106(1):50-52. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-106-1-50
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Hyperamylasemia, which has been reported in patients with the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia, generally has been thought to result from pancreatitis. To evaluate the mechanisms of hyperamylasemia, we measured amylase, lipase, and isoamylase activity in 17 consecutive patients admitted to the eating disorder unit. Six patients had elevated amylase activity, and 5 of these 6 had isolated increases in salivary isoamylase activity. Six other patients had normal serum total amylase activity but modest elevations in the salivary isoamylase fraction. No patient developed clinical evidence of pancreatitis during hospitalization. Thus, the hyperamylasemia in patients with anorexia and bulimia often is caused by increased salivary-type amylase activity. The appropriate diagnostic test for hyperamylasemia in patients with anorexia or bulimia is the simple measurement of serum lipase or pancreatic isoamylase activity. If these levels are found to be normal, further tests to exclude pancreatitis are unnecessary.

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