Genetics play a big role in anorexia nervosa, the exaggerated fear of weight gain that causes many young women to starve themselves, researchers have found.
A study of twins in Sweden found that about 56% of the risk for developing the eating disorder is based on family history, the report from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said. Other unspecified factors triggered the disorder in 44% of the cases, the study said.
“Anorexia is a moderately heritable psychiatric disorder that may be predicted by the presence of early neuroticism” characterized by low self-esteem, emotional instability and feelings of depression, anxiety and guilt, the study said.
The finding was based on a data bank of more than 31,000 twins in Sweden born between 1935 and 1958 whose health histories have been tracked on a number of fronts. Researchers found that 1.2% of women in the group and less than 1% of men had the disorder.
The report was published in the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.