New research into Anorexia Nervosa indicates that the condition is due to a particular mixture of genetic and social factors such as stress, according to doctors funded by medical research charity Action Research.
The pioneering work of Dr David Collier and Dr Janet Treasure at London's Institute of Psychiatry was featured on the BBC2 programme Horizon on Thursday January 21.
Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, killing one in every 100 sufferers every year, with 5,000 new cases registered in the UK annually. Dr Collier and the team have identified inherited differences in a particular gene as one cause of anorexia and are examining how this factor relates to a) other genes that control body shape and appetite and b) social risk factors.
Following in-depth research with volunteer families living with anorexia, initial findings indicate that a particular gene involved in the actions of the brain, chemical serotonin makes some people more vulnerable to the development of anorexia.
Dr David Collier says: 'There is great excitement about anorexia being linked to genetics but it's important to point out that genes are not the whole story. It seems that people with anorexia may have a particular combination of 'normal' genes which makes them more likely to develop the illness when faced with stressful events while growing up.'
Anne Luther, Director General of Action Research, says: anorexia is a major issue for young people, especially women, and Action Research is proud to fund excellent projects such as this one. We are very hopeful that it will lead to the development of new and better treatments for the illness."
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