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Letter: Nothing new

You say that anorexia was diagnosed in 1873 and bulimia in 1979 ("Bulimia cases treble in just five years", 1 December). Both diseases are described in The Practice of Physick, translated from the French of Lazarus Riverius by Nicholas Culpeper and published in 1678. On pages 248-256, diseases of the appetite are discussed. "When [the appetite] is abolished it is called Anorexia ... nourishment in greater quantity than Nature would require is called Boulimia." Of sufferers of the latter it says "after much feeding they vomit like dogs. But some purge rather than vomit". Riverius identified the cause as "melancholic humor" in the stomach - not bad for 300 years ago.

John Glenn

Grantham, Lincolnshire