Washington: A new study has provided deep insight on anorexia nervosa i.e. eating disorders suggesting that the longer one suffers from active anorexia nervosa (AN), the more likely they are to show disorder-relevant alterations in DNA methylation.
Linda Booij, a researcher with Sainte-Justine Hospital and an assistant professor at Queen's University, is the first to observe effects.
When methylation is altered, gene expression is also altered, and when gene expression is altered, the expression of traits that are controlled by those genes is also changed. In other words, altered methylation can produce changes in emotional reactions, physiological functions and behaviors.
A genome-wide study is showing chronicity of illness in women with AN to be associated with more pronounced alteration of methylation levels in genes implicated in anxiety, social behavior, various brain and nervous system functions, immunity, and the functioning of peripheral organs.
Dr. Steiger, Chief of the Eating Disorders Program at the Douglas Institute and a professor of Psychiatry at McGill University, said that these findings help clarify the point that eating disorders are not about superficial body image concerns or the result of bad parenting. They represent real biological effects of environmental impacts in affected people, which then get locked in by too much dieting.
Steiger added that they already know that eating disorders, once established, have a tendency to become more and more entrenched over time and these findings point to physical mechanisms acting upon physiological and nervous system functions throughout the body that may underlie many of the effects of chronicity.
The study is published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.