Eating Disorder Gene Mutations

Scientist have discovered two gene mutations that they believe are associated with an increased risk of eating disorders.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia often run in families, but these eating disorders are complex, and it has proven difficult to identify the paths. But, using two families with very high incidences of eating disorders, scientists say they found rare mutations, one in each family, that were associated with the people who had the disorders.

The study suggests that mutations that decrease the activity of a protein that turns on the expression of other genes – called a transcription factor which increase risk. That transcription factor is estrogen-related receptor alpha, or ESRRA.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are debilitating and occur in 1% to 3% of women, less frequently among men. They are among the deadliest of psychiatric diseases. They are thought to occur as a result of a predisposition and environmental factors.

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