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Examining the genetic roots of anorexia and other eating disorders

| | January 16, 2019

Characterized by extreme caloric restriction resulting in weight loss, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image, anorexia [nervosa, or AN,] has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Death can be a result of various risks associated with the condition, from suicide to heart failure.

Through studying twins, [researcher Cynthia] Bulik and other researchers have established that AN is 50 percent to 60 percent heritable. Bulik and colleagues have also been involved in multiple projects aiming to identify possible genetic bases of AN and other eating disorders. In 2017, for example, a genome-wide association study (GWAS) conducted by UNC researchers and other members of the Psychiatric Genetics Consortium Eating Disorders Working Group (PGC-ED) turned up a connection between AN and a locus overlapping six genes on chromosome 12.

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The 2017 study also confirmed strong genetic correlations between AN and neuroticism, schizophrenia, and, less expectedly, various metabolic features including body mass index (BMI) and insulin-glucose metabolism. Bulik says that the finding of a possible genetic basis for the condition has been well-received by families and patients, who have long sought recognition that AN is a serious medical disorder, not a dieting choice, as was historically believed. She views the study as the “first step to rewriting the book on AN.”

Read full, original post: Researchers Explore the Genetics of Eating Disorders

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