Anorexia nervosa may be genetic

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A researcher in the United States says a ten year study into the eating disorder anorexia nervosa suggests that sufferers may have a genetic predisposition for it.

Researcher Dr. Craig Johnson who is currently president of the National Eating Disorders Association in the U.S. has been involved in the study 'The Genetics of Anorexia Nervosa' which is being conducted in eight cities in North America, including Tulsa, and two European cities.

The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Johnson is the founder and director of the eating disorders program at Laureate Psychiatric Hospital and is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Tulsa.

He is also an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma Medical School.

He has written two books and over 70 scientific articles on eating disorders and he says if a person has a family member who has had anorexia nervosa, she or he is 12 times more at risk of developing the illness.

Dr. Johnson who is one of the study's principal researchers, says 'genetics load the gun and environment pulls the trigger'.

Johnson says researchers have devoted a great deal of time and attention over the last 40 years into how a culture that promotes dieting appears to provoke eating disorders.

He says scientists now know that the illnesses occur when there is a perfect storm of events that include genetic vulnerability and a culture that is promoting thinness through dieting and exercise.

Anorexia nervosa is most common in young females between 11 to 14 years of age and sufferers develop a strong aversion to food and have a distorted image of their body.

The research has helped to identify groups most at risk of developing the disease.

Johnson says girls should gain a third of their adult weight during that time, which is about 40 pounds, and if a young woman is uneasy with the weight gain, and someone says something about their weight, it can provoke an episode of dieting.

Johnson says dieting and exercise are "the royal road to eating disorders."

The Eating Disorders Institute (EDI) is a cooperative program including MeritCare Eating Disorders Outpatient Program, MeritCare Partial-Hospitalization Program (eating disorder track), the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences (eating disorders research program), and the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute (eating disorders research program).

The EDI provides clinical services for adults and adolescents with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, atypical eating disorders, and binge eating disorders and provides assessments, treatment, and consultation.

The EDI is involved in range of research programs designed to provide additional new information on the assessment, treatment, and outcome for various eating disorders.

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