“We don't know what the mechanism is here yet,” she says.
“It’s just something that we've seen clinically for years but haven’t thought about as potentially [involving] opposite ends of the same underlying process.” Bulik and her colleagues published a study in 2017 that analyzed the genomes of about 3,500 people with anorexia.
The subjects were from 17 countries, and all of them had European ancestry.
This time, the researchers identified eight genetic loci linked to the disorder, although Bulik says there are likely hundreds.
Nevertheless, the study’s conclusions increase our understanding of genetic contributors to anorexia.
Pharmacogeneticists may be able to use them as a starting point to develop new treatments, Bulik says.In it, they identified the first chromosome location, or locus, to be correlated with the disorder, hinting at a possible metabolic link.Their new study analyzed dozens of data sets containing a total of nearly 17,000 people with anorexia and more than 55,000 healthy controls.In a review paper published online in , Walter Kaye, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues describe dysfunction in certain neural circuits of the brain which may help explain why people develop anorexia in the first place, and behaviors such as the relentless pursuit of dieting and weight loss."Currently, we don't have very effective means of treating people with anorexia," said Kaye.She praises Bulik and her colleagues for their rigorous study of the genetic factors involved, adding, “I hope, in the future, that such studies can also encompass more global diversity and, especially, populations in the global south, which have been neglected in eating disorders research.” Environmental factors may contribute to the pursuit of thinness at the core of anorexia nervosa but do not, by themselves, cause eating disorders, Attia says.Currently, in Western society, “we are in an environment flooded with images of idealized thin bodies,” she says “[yet] rates of anorexia nervosa in Europe and North America are relatively low and have not changed much in recent years.” The social context may simply increase the risk of eating disorders such as anorexia among individuals who are biologically susceptible to them.’s free newsletters."data-newsletterpromo-image="https://static.scientificamerican.com/sciam/cache/file/458BF87F-514B-44EE-B87F5D531772CF83_source.png"data-newsletterpromo-button-text="Sign Up"data-newsletterpromo-button-link="https:// origincode=2018_sciam_Article Promo_Newsletter Sign Up"name="article Body" itemprop="article Body"Anorexia has one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric disorder, and scientists are still perplexed by its causes.Now, however, a new study has examined the genomes of tens of thousands of people and identified eight chromosome locations that may increase vulnerability to the illness."Consequently, many patients with the disorder remain ill for years or eventually die from the disease, which has the highest death rate of any psychiatric disorder." A better understanding of the underlying neurobiology – how behavior is coded in the brain and contributes to anorexia —is likely to result in more effective treatments, according to the researchers.Childhood personality and temperament may increase an individual's vulnerability to developing anorexia.