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Medical News & Perspectives
September 17, 2003

Advances in Eating Disorders Offer Food for Thought

JAMA. 2003;290(11):1437-1442. doi:10.1001/jama.290.11.1437

While many individuals try to shed pounds, relatively few develop the eating disorders anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). The reason why some cross the line between dieting and disorder, scientists are finding, may be rooted in these individuals' genetic makeup.

Genetic risk factors make a major contribution to a vulnerability to these eating disorders, explains Walter Kaye, MD, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. At the same time, psychosocial and environmental factors prove less influential than once thought. AN and BN have a heritability of 50% to 80%, Kaye said, similar to that of other major psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder .