Media Coverage

Can Eating Disorders Be Genetic?

May 8, 2023
Focusing on research conducted by the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine, the article discusses how genetics can be attributed to eating disorders. Dr. Harry Brandt shared his insight noting that continued research around the subject will provide a better understanding of the illness as well as the development of new treatments. ​

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Anorexia may be characterized by a lack of consumption, but the disease is all-consuming. Enduring the disorder at age 14 and again at 17, my every moment was preoccupied with stress and anxiety surrounding food and my wasting body, coupled with an overwhelming and deep, implacable pain. Within months, my will to live was as faint as my skeletal form.

Eating disorders affect at least 9 percent of people worldwide, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders (ANAD) and are the second-deadliest mental illness, next to opioid use disorder, causing about 10,200 deaths per year.

These disorders, the most prevalent of which include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder (BED) and other specified eating disorders (OSFED), can pervade all facets of a person's life and well-being, from their emotional to sexual health.

They are highly treatable, and treatment can typically restore sexual well-being and fertility along with overall health. However, many people have trouble finding support or achieving long-term recovery, in part because the conditions and their origins are not fully understood.

Doctors typically consider eating disorders as psychological ailments heavily influenced by environmental and sociocultural factors. But recent research suggested genetics contribute as much—if not more—to their development.


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