Genes May Make You More Prone to Eating Disorders, Say Scientists

By Steve Connor Science Editor | The Independent (London, England), March 27, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Genes May Make You More Prone to Eating Disorders, Say Scientists


Steve Connor Science Editor, The Independent (London, England)


SCIENTISTS HAVE amassed the strongest evidence yet that anorexia and bulimia are partially the result of an inherited predisposition to eating disorders.

A study of anorexia in men - an exceptionally rare condition - has found that their female relatives are nine times more likely than other women to suffer from the same condition. This suggests that genes play a substantial role in deciding whether a child of either sex will develop an eating disorder in later life.

The findings support a similar study by the same team, which found that the female relatives of women with anorexia or bulimia are up to 12.3 times more likely to suffer from one of the disorders than the general female population.

Both sets of results point to a strong genetic component to anorexia and bulimia and an underlying biological reason some girls are more prone to developing eating disorders than others. "This research provides powerful new evidence negating the myth that individuals with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are simply spoilt rich girls trying to be beautiful," said Michael Strober, a specialist in eating disorders at the University of California.

Dr Strober has now done the largest study in the world of families affected by eating disorders, which has helped to shatter the once widely-held belief that anorexia and bulimia were entirely the result of social factors.

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