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March 07, 2021 Sunday 05:35:04 PM IST

Eating Disorders Linked to Psychiatric Disorders and Risk of Obesity

Scientists have unearthed evidence to show that those with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder have predisposing genetic markers that are shared with other psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. It also showed a relationship to possibility of developing higher or lower Body Mass Index (BMI). 

There were similarities in the genetic patterns of individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorders. The study was done by analysing the genomes of 20,000 people of UK drawing from UK Biobank and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. First author, Dr Christopher Hübel, from King’s College London said: “We were able to access volunteer’s DNA, their basic health data (weight, age, etc.) and responses to health questionnaires, including possible psychiatric disorders and their eating disorder history. We are grateful for this access as we were able to conduct multifactorial analyses and calculate more than 250 polygenic scores for each person. Each polygenic score sums the risk genes involved in a specific trait, such as depression, for example. We calculated polygenic scores for psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and metabolic and physical traits, including insulin sensitivity, obesity and high BMI.” Thus, the higher the score, the greater the genetic risk, whether it is blue eyes or the development of a given disease. The research team then examined the associations between the polygenic scores of these volunteers (representing genetic liability to psychiatric disorders, metabolic and physical traits) and eating disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa was seen to be associated with genetic predisposition to lower BMI while bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorders were assocaited with genetic markers of higher BMI.
“The metabolic and physical component would therefore direct the individual either towards anorexia nervosa or towards bulimia nervosa or binge-eating disorder”, analyses Nadia Micali, Professor of Department of Psychiatry, University of Geneva. “Moreover, this study  confirms a clear genetic relationship between binge-eating disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), that was already clinically observed, which might be linked to greater impulsivity, which is shared by these disorders.”
Participating institutions
University of Geneva (UNIGE), the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG), King’s College London, the University College London, the University of North Carolina (UNC) and The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai