We don’t advocate blaming your mother for your body issues (even if she did make some off-color remarks about your weight as a child), but according to new research, our ability to overcome eating disorders is passed on genetically from Mom and Dad. Anorexia, bulimia, and overeating can be triggered by several factors, but a study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmcology says that chronic eating disorders may also be attributed to genetics. That might seem like bad news, but researchers hope that discovering the genetic links may improve treatment; we say it also doesn’t mean we’re doomed to inherit anorexia.
In the study, an international team of scientists examined the DNA of 1,878 women who were diagnosed with eating disorders (mostly anorexia, or a combination of anorexia and bulimia) and exhibited low body mass index compared with control subjects. Of those women, researchers found that many shared genetic markets for personality traits that predispose women to eating disorders, like high anxiety and high concern over mistakes. Walter H. Kaye, M.D. explained:
This study sheds light on important ‘SNPs’ or genetic variations within an individual’s DNA, associated with long-term, chronic eating disorders. These variations suggest genetic predictors for patients who may be particularly susceptible to eating disorders and whose illnesses are most difficult to treat effectively.
The study’s lead researcher, Cinnamon Bloss, Ph.D., explains that ultimately, the study could help treatment of patients with long-term illness stemming from some of these genetic factors:
Anorexia and bulimia likely stem from many different causes, such as culture, family, life changes and personality traits But we know biology and genetics are highly relevant in terms of cause and can also play a role in how people respond to treatment. Understanding the genetics behind these conditions is important, because it could eventually help us tailor treatment based on the person’s genetic makeup, with the goal of more personalized and effective treatments.
While it’s a bit disheartening to think that some women have it tougher because of their genes, we stand by our belief that health has as much to do with nurture as nature: Taking care of your health—both physical and mental—can go a long way towards helping you get over the hurdles of your genes. Body image and eating disorders are complicated issues to tackle, but we’re doing our best here at Blisstree, and hope you will, too. Check out the content from our Body Positive week at Blisstree for body image inspiration.