A new study has revealed that anorexia nervosa, the sometimes deadly eating disorder, is not purely a psychiatric problem. When researchers compared the DNA of people with anorexia to those of healthy control subjects they discovered that the anorexic DNA also exhibited problems with metabolism. The metabolism issues are associated with DNA involved in burning fat, being physically active, and having resistance to type 2 diabetes. The finding may help to explain why it is so difficult to treat anorexia, and pave the way for a more effective approach.
“What our study means is we can no longer treat anorexia, and perhaps other eating disorders, as purely psychiatric or psychological,” said Gerome Breen, a geneticist at King’s College London who co-led the study. “Anorexia has the expected correlations with anxiety, depression and OCD, but it also has this set of apparently healthy metabolic correlations that we don’t see in any other psychiatric disorder.”