A new study that highlights the importance of metabolic processes within the development of anorexia has been published in Nature Genetics. The researchers identified eight genetic variants that would be “significantly associated with anorexia nervosa,” which would show how this eating behavior disorder also has metabolic and not just psychological causes.
According to Cynthia M. Bulik, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of North Carolina, up to now there has perhaps been too much focus on the psychological aspects of anorexia nervosa.
This research shows that it is probably also important to understand the role of metabolism to understand why people suffering from anorexia are characterized by a weight that is too low, even after a hospitalization for a therapy.
The researchers analyzed the data collected in the context of the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI) and of the Disabling Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC-ED). The data concerned people from North America, Europe and Australasia and 16,992 of the cases analyzed were inherent to anorexia nervosa.
Among the results obtained, the researchers found that genetic factors associated with anorexia can influence physical activity, which explains why people with anorexia nervosa are highly active.
According to Gerome Breen of King’s College London, one of the authors of the study, “the metabolic abnormalities observed in patients with anorexia nervosa are often attributed to hunger, but this study shows that they can also contribute to the development of the disorder. These results suggest that genetic studies on eating disorders can provide powerful new clues to their causes and can change the way we deal with and treat anorexia.”
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