International Study Finds Potential Genetic Root of Anorexia

Anorexia is often thought of as being like a contagious illness. The questions of whether social media or peer criticism can “cause” anorexia are constantly raised, but one thing is constantly forgotten. While external factors can contribute to the development of eating disorders, they are ultimately psychiatric disorders born out of genetics.

Until now, the exact genetic root of anorexia has been a mystery. However, an international team of scientists claims to have evidence suggesting those with anorexia nervosa have mutations in their DNA on a specific chromosome.

This mutation could also potentially be passed down onto children, according to the report published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

For the study, researchers from King’s College London and the University of North Carolina compared DNA of over 3,000 people diagnosed with anorexia against samples taken from people without eating disorders.

More than half of those with anorexia showed abnormalities in their DNA linked to neuroticism, metabolism, and heightened risk of schizophrenia.

As Professor Cynthia Bulik of the University of North Carolina explained, “Anorexia nervosa was significantly genetically correlated with neuroticism and schizophrenia, supporting the idea that anorexia is indeed a psychiatric illness.”

“Unexpectedly, we also found strong genetic correlations with various metabolic features including body composition (BMI) and insulin-glucose metabolism.

“This finding encourages us to look more deeply at how metabolic factors increase the risk for anorexia nervosa.”

The team says they have yet to pinpoint the exact genes tied to anorexia, but this development gets them much closer. Once they have identified the specific genes, they believe drugs could potentially be developed to prevent anorexia.

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