New Hope For Eating Disorders



I’m not a scientist. Heck! I don’t even play one on TV. But I most definitely can attest to the fact that almost all aspects of mental illness can be found to have some genetic component to them. When a child is born with ADHD, we would be hard-pressed to find that there is not some type of mental health issues effecting one or both of the child’s biological parents that attributed to the ADHD in the child.

So, it is no surprise that the more studies that are done with genetics, the more we are finding things like the newest information regarding genetics and eating disorders. We already know that the tendency for eating disorders has been found to run in families, however, we have not been able to identify the specific genes directly related to putting people at greater risks because of their familial connection.

At least not up until now. Two groups of scientists, one from the University of Iowa and the other from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, have been researching two families that have been very negatively impacted by eating disorders, because of two totally different gene mutations.



What makes these finding unique, is that although the two families are not connected and the two gene mutations are totally different, there is interaction in the same signaling pathway in the brain that produce the same effect biologically.

Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter

Let me back up for a moment. About one in every thousand women will die from anorexia. With that fact as the stimulus for these scientists, the study which can be found in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, published October 8, 2013, the mutations that decrease activity in a protein in the brain that turns on expression of other genes, increases the risk of eating disorders.

Again, I’m no scientist, but to me this means that when our brains don’t get enough of a certain type of activity due to some type of defect, it causes an increased in the chances of there being eating disorders.

Large families have to be studied in order to get strong statistics to conclusively back up the differences. The genetics have to indicate what people with the disorder have in common that people without the disorder don’t have.

This study permitted researchers to work with two families, one with 20 members from three generations and one with eight members. Half the individuals in the first family were affected by the disorder and six of the eight in the second family were affected. The results led to the identification of two new genes now associated with eating disorders and more research to come that might help lead the way in working with people who suffer with them.

Although the combinations are pretty much endless, when there is a hit; when two genes like these show similar results, it really makes tremendous progress in learning more about and treating the problems.

Now that is productive research!

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

5 responses »

  1. This is what I really enjoy about technological advances, that it opens the doors in all fields of study for us to better understand how the brain (thus the mind and possibly consciousness) works.

  2. I’m going to chime in and take the other viewpoint here, and say that I’m not sure this is a good thing after all. You didn’t mention the particular eating disorder that was being studied here, although you did mention anorexia later on.

    In my opinion, there is a greater disorder here that needs to be researched. There are other types of people who view themselves as being different in some way from their idea of the norm. I’m thinking specifically of those who have cosmetic surgery, one procedure after another. Or another group that’s been cropping up lately, those having one bariatric procedure after another. (I’ve lately run across some people who have had up to 4 surgeries, trying desperately to find that one magic pill that will help them lose weight. This, to me, is in some ways not much different from those who try one diet after another without success, except that the risk to overall health and safety are much greater. My own surgery didn’t work — didn’t lose a bit of weight, but still have some pretty extreme dietary restrictions, go figure! But I’m not about to have yet another surgery.)

    This leads into my whole disagreement with labeling obesity as a disease. The only diagnostic criterion proposed by the AMA is Body Mass Index, or the ratio between height and weight. This would mean that people who have a large muscle mass, such as body builders, would technically be labeled as obese. Too, there are a great many obese people who are quite healthy. As for risk — what about the risk caused by stress, by depression caused by perceived failures when extreme diets don’t work, or self-esteem problems caused by bullying? I am certainly not anorexic, at my weight, but there have been times when I’ve been hit by an attitude of desperation because of my “failures” to make myself conform to some physical standard set for me by someone else who doesn’t care that my heart is in perfect condition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s