Australian scientists working on genetics of anorexia

Last Updated: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 14:03

Melbourne: Australian scientists along with US and Scandinavian researchers are working on a study to determine the genetics behind an eating disorder called Anorexia.

The lead investigator on the US component of the study, Cynthia Bulik said that she believed finding a genetic basis for eating disorders will be a big step in increasing that number.

"Studies have shown fairly unequivocally that genes play a role in anorexia nervosa," said Bulik, "Somewhere between 40 and 60 per cent of liability to the disorder is due to genetic factors" she added.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by immoderate food restriction and irrational fear of gaining weight, and perception of having a distorted body.

Bulik added that most of us, when we get hungry, get very irritable and it`s not a pleasant feeling. People who are vulnerable to anorexia have a different response to starvation, they find that it calms them.

We think there might be something fundamentally different in their biology that puts them at risk," Bulik added.

Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) which is conducting the research has said there is a clear link between genes and the disorder.

"It`s not all genetic, but there`s a strong genetic influence," said Nick Martin from the QIMR. "We now have almost 100 genes that seem to be influencing schizophrenia, (and) heading that way for bipolar, and so we figured it`s time to start trying to do this for anorexia" he added.

"Our medical research has now reached a stage where we can now actually try to find the particular genes involved and hopefully this will lead us to cures" he said.

He added that recent research by the National Eating Disorder Collaboration has shown illnesses like anorexia are becoming more prevalent in Australia.

The research estimated about nine per cent of the population will experience an eating disorder during their lives and fewer than 50 per cent of those afflicted by anorexia nervosa make a full recovery.

PTI



First Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 14:03

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