Background: Evidence of a role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the pathophysiology of eating disorders (ED) has been provided by association studies and by murine models. BDNF plasma levels have been found altered in ED and in psychiatric disorders that show comorbidity with ED. Aims: Since the role of BDNF levels in ED-related psychopathological symptoms has not been tested, we investigated the correlation of BDNF plasma levels with the Symptom Checklist 90 Revised (SCL-90R) questionnaire in a total of 78 ED patients. Methods: BDNF levels, measured by the enzyme-linked immunoassay system, and SCL-90R questionnaire, were assessed in a total of 78 ED patients. The relationship between BDNF levels and SCL-90R scales was calculated using a general linear model. Results: BDNF plasma levels correlated with the Global Severity Index and the Positive Symptom Distress Index global scales and five of the nine subscales in the anorexia nervosa patients. BDNF plasma levels were able to explain, in the case of the Psychoticism subscale, up to 17% of the variability (p = 0.006). Conclusion: Our data suggest that BDNF levels could be involved in the severity of the disease through the modulation of psychopathological traits that are associated with the ED phenotype.

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