And there are many other eating disorders besides anorexia whose genetic involvement has yet to be explored. “For now, this [research] actually gives an explanatory model to a lot of patients and families who have just been perplexed by this illness for a long time,” Bulik says.
New imaging technology provides insight into abnormalities in the brain circuitry of patients with anorexia nervosa (commonly known as anorexia) that may contribute to the puzzling symptoms found in people with the eating disorder.
The subjects were from 17 countries, and all of them had European ancestry.
This time, the researchers identified eight genetic loci linked to the disorder, although Bulik says there are likely hundreds.
Some of these locations have been linked to metabolic problems—suggesting the causes of anorexia may not be purely psychological.
Anorexia Research Paper
Anorexia nervosa, as it is officially known, is an eating disorder primarily associated with an extremely low body mass index (BMI), usually accompanied by an aversion to eating and a distorted body image.
In it, they identified the first chromosome location, or locus, to be correlated with the disorder, hinting at a possible metabolic link.
Their new study analyzed dozens of data sets containing a total of nearly 17,000 people with anorexia and more than 55,000 healthy controls.
She praises Bulik and her colleagues for their rigorous study of the genetic factors involved, adding, “I hope, in the future, that such studies can also encompass more global diversity and, especially, populations in the global south, which have been neglected in eating disorders research.” Environmental factors may contribute to the pursuit of thinness at the core of anorexia nervosa but do not, by themselves, cause eating disorders, Attia says.
Currently, in Western society, “we are in an environment flooded with images of idealized thin bodies,” she says “[yet] rates of anorexia nervosa in Europe and North America are relatively low and have not changed much in recent years.” The social context may simply increase the risk of eating disorders such as anorexia among individuals who are biologically susceptible to them.