the Difference - Studies indicate that overweight people may
get more pleasure from eating. (12/10/02)
Obesity - Researchers have shown that a virus which causes
obesity in animals is also contagious. (7/5/01)
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Harvard Eating Disorders
of Anorexia Nervosa
Eating Disorders Association
Many Americans have made New Year's resolutions to eat less, exercise more
and lose weight. But people with anorexia nervosa do these things to such
an extreme that they endanger their health or even their lives.
As this ScienCentral News video reports, doctors believe there may be a genetic
The Thin Iâ€™m In
Between five and ten million people in the United States have eating
disorders, the deadliest of all psychiatric illnesses. Many of those people
suffer from anorexia.
They pursue thinness though diet and exercise to the point that they drop
to below eighty-five percent of their ideal body weight.
This can lead to health problems like osteoporosis, heart attacks, arthritis
and sometimes death.
Another problem, according to Dr. Walter Kaye of the University of Pittsburghâ€™s
Medical Center, a leading researcher on anorexia, is what happens to the brain
of people who starve themselves. “The brain actually shrinks,”
he says. “A number of chemicals [in the brain] become abnormally high
or abnormally low.”
This, believes Kaye, may cause people with anorexia to become more anxious,
depressed and obsessive. This is especially dangerous for them because they
already tend to be perfectionists and suffer from anxiety.
Starvation, says Kaye, may be a way for them to reduce those uncomfortable
feelings, creating a vicious cycle.
Genetics researchers now suspect that, like obesity,
anorexia may be inherited. Scientists are interested in which of the 31-thousand
genes in the human genome are responsible. Itâ€™s a daunting challenge,
admits Kaye, but researchers have already found four regions of the genome
where they believe at least some of those genes reside. Now theyâ€™re
training their sights on the specific genes that may play a role in the development
A study funded by the
National Institutes of Health and the National
Institute of Mental Health is looking at family members who share the
disease. The goal is to find the genes they share. "We try and look at
two or more family members that have anorexia and see which regions of the
genome they have in common," says Kaye, whoâ€™s the lead researcher
of the study. But, he points out, it's not just about genetics. "Part
of it is the culture and the environment that we grow up with."
There is currently no medical treatment for anorexia. Most of those who recover,
says Kaye, simply realize that they can give it up or they donâ€™t need
it anymore. But for the others, scientists are hopeful the four-year study
will help them find one.
For more information or to participate in the study go to www.anbn.org.