“We’ve known for quite a long time that there are genetic factors influencing anorexia,” professor Nick Martin, head of the QIMR Berghofer genetic epidemiology laboratory told ABC News. “The problem has been – do we know what the specific genes are.. and that’s what’s taken us so long.”
This could explain why patients struggle to maintain a healthy weight even after receiving treatment.
“What we expected was to find genes that are clearly implicated in the psychiatric mental and health aspects of the disease, which is obviously important,” Professor Martin added.
“But what has taken us by surprise is finding that there seem to be very strong links with metabolism as well.”
In Australia, anorexia is estimated to affect over 16 per cent of the population – an alarming statistic considering there are currently no pharmaceutical medications designed to help those with the disorder.
“There’s nothing specifically for anorexia because people don’t really understand its causes,” Professor Martin said.
And while these findings won’t instantly provide a solution, they will open doors to new ways of treating patients in the future and hopefully shift the culture of blame that surrounds sufferers and their families.
If you are worried about yourself or someone in your care, the best thing you can do is talk to someone. Please contact the Butterfly Foundation 1800 33 4673 or chat online.