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New genetic clue in 'puzzle' of anorexia

“Anorexia could have genetic link,” The Daily Telegraph reports. The headline might lead you to think that a role for genes in anorexia is a completely new finding…

“Anorexia could have genetic link,” The Daily Telegraph reports.

The headline might lead you to think that a role for genes in anorexia is a completely new finding. However, studies in twins and families affected by the condition have already suggested such a link.

The news highlights a study in which researchers found that some variants in and around a gene called EPHX2 are more common in people with anorexia nervosa.

They compared 152 genes in more than 1,000 women with anorexia and almost 1,500 women who did not have the condition.

The EPHX2 gene is involved in cholesterol function in the body, and has not previously been linked with anorexia.

In a complex disease like anorexia, multiple genes are likely to play a role, as well as environmental factors. This makes it difficult to identify the genes involved.

This study gives us only a small piece in a large and complex puzzle.   

Warning signs

People with anorexia do not deliberately choose to lie to people, but the obsessive nature of anorexia can make people with the condition act in devious ways. Warning signs include losing weight, missing meals, complaining of being fat, even though they are normal or underweight, repeatedly weighing themselves and looking in the mirror.

 

Read more about the symptoms of anorexia

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from The Scripps Translational Science Institute in the US, and other research centres in the US, Canada, Italy, and the UK. It was funded by the Price Foundation, and the authors also received support from grants from the US National Institutes for Health and other university and charitable organisations.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The Telegraph’s headline implies that a genetic contribution to anorexia had not been suspected previously, which is not the case. Similarly, the Mail Online implies that previous thinking was that anorexia is purely down to social pressures, which is also incorrect.

Many experts believe that the condition is caused by a combination of psychological, environmental and biological factors (including genetics), which lead to a destructive cycle of behaviour.

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