People with eating disorders often face a long term battle. People with anorexia nervosa are often severely underweight and are likely to die from malnutrition. Researchers have found that genetic traits are also linked to individuals with high anxiety and higher concern over mistakes that are associated with anorexia and bulimia. Biology and genetics can play a role in how people respond to treatment. The genetics behind these conditions is important, because it could eventually help researchers bring about treatment based on the person’s genetic makeup, with the goal of more personalized and effective treatments. Patients may be genetically predetermined to possess personality traits and temperaments that make them susceptible to the eating disorders.
In this particular study, researchers followed 1,878 women to see if common genes, pathways and biological systems increase the susceptibility to eating disorders. Most were individuals with a lifetime diagnosis of either anorexia or both anorexia and bulimia. Many also exhibited lower body mass index, higher anxiety and higher concern over mistakes than control subjects.
The scientists then identified the top 25 most statistically significant SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms), after evaluating a total of 5,151 SNPs in about 350 genes.
According to Cinnamon Bloss, 10 of the 25 most strongly associated “haplotypes” (combinations of alleles for different genes that are located closely together on the same chromosome and that tend to be inherited together) involved SNPs in GABA genes.
The study confirms the hypothesis that genes may predispose individuals to a chronic course of an eating disorder, Bloss said, adding that additional studies are needed to confirm such associations.