Scientists at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have found genes linked to anorexia nervosa.
The researchers discovered genes that are key to both neuronal signaling and shaping interconnections among brain cells, indicating a ‘hardwiring’ of sorts that may put patients at risk of developing anorexia.
The is the largest genetic study yet of this psychiatric eating disorder.
The research appears in this month’s Molecular Psychiatry.
“Having a family history of anorexia nervosa (AN) increases the risk for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa – the risk is highest to female first degree relatives (mother, daughters, and sisters) of a person with AN. Therefore, family history is still one of the most important risk factors and can be used to help identify individuals at risk for these disorders.”, Jordanna Joaquina, MS, CGC, Director of Genetics and Co-Founder of Inherited Health.com tells Examiner.
People with anorexia may refuse food or severely limit the amount of food they eat, or eat and then make themselves throw up. They may also use water pills (diuretics) and laxatives to lose weight. They experience extreme weight loss, an irrational fear of weight gain even when emaciated, and distorted self-image of body weight and shape.
A seperate report says girls as young as preschool have body image preference. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa says according to Sex Roles: A Journal of Research , girls as young as three idealize thinness. When weight is stigmatized at such a young age, weight discrimination resembles more of a natural trait than a learned attitude.
Rhode Island Hospital says the eating disorder is seen mainly in Caucasian women who are high academic achievers and who have a goal-oriented family or personality. Anorexia nervosa (AN) affects an estimated 9 in 1000 women in the United States.Women are affected by anorexia 10 times more frequently than men, with the disorder nearly always beginning during adolescence.
Behaviors that may be noticed in a person with anorexia include:
- Cutting food into small pieces
- Exercising compulsively
- Going to the bathroom right after meals
- Quickly eating large amounts of food
- Restricting the amount of food eaten
- Using laxatives, enemas, or diuretics inappropriately in an effort to lose weight
Symptoms may include:
- Blotchy or yellow skin
- Confused or slow thinking
- Dental cavities due to self-induced vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Extreme sensitivity to cold (wearing several layers of clothing to stay warm)
- Fine hair
- Low blood pressure
- No menstruation
- Poor memory or poor judgement
- Significant weight loss (15% or greater below normal weight)
- Wasting away of muscle and loss of body fat
RIH says the goals of treatment are to first restore normal body weight and eating habits, and then to address the psychological issues. Severe and life-threatening malnutrition may require feedings through a vein. Most individuals with anorexia nervosa do not recognize that they have an eating disorder. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders, and successful treatment is challenging. By some estimates, it leads to death in 10% of cases. Experienced treatment programs have a good success rate in restoring normal weight, but relapse is common.
Butler Hospital, Providence
Children’s Hospital Boston
Hartford Hospital, Eating Disorder Program
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