I Inherited My Eating Disorder, and Science Agrees
Why I signed up for these studies in a heartbeat — and you might want to, too
Fun fact about eating disorders (just kidding — none of it is fun): If anyone ever insinuates to you that anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder are a choice, a vanity issue, or solely the product of one too many social media clicks, that person knows nothing about eating disorders. If eating disorders were actually any one of those things, I would have politely said “no thank you” when negative body image thoughts came calling in first grade and full-blown anorexia took over my life by high school. The reality that most people aren’t aware of or don’t care to know is that eating disorders are complex, ruthless, and built on layers of interwoven biological, psychological, and social factors. And thanks to scientists on the front lines fighting these potentially deadly disorders, new research is emerging that sheds light on how our genes can set us up for disaster and influence how we recover.
This month, Cynthia Bulik, PhD, founding director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, is launching the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) research study. Bulik and her team have already launched the study in New Zealand and Australia and are now rolling it out in the United States, with the ultimate goal of enrolling 100,000 individuals worldwide who have lived with anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder at any time in their lives. The investigation is based on the initial findings from the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative, aka ANGI, the first international effort to identify genes that increase the risk for anorexia.
“ANGI shed new light on the origins of anorexia nervosa and those transformative findings inspired us to use the same strategies to investigate the genetic causes of bulimia and binge-eating disorder as well,” Bulik says.
A first-degree relative of someone with a disorder is up to 12 times more likely to develop one than a relative of someone ED-free.
Experts have long known that eating disorders stem from a combination of hereditary and environmental…