It is commonly believed that eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia can be passed on from mothers to daughters through learned behaviors. A new study found that genetics may also play a role when it comes to multi-generational eating disorders.
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal are using the science of epigenetics to discover how mothers pass a genetic predisposition to eating disorders to their children.
“The science of epigenetics is relatively new,” Professor Howard Steiger told attendees at the National Eating Disorders Collaboration National Workshop in Adelaide, Australia, last week. “Epigenetics helps explain how adverse development, stress, malnutrition and other influences can affect development of mental-health problems – including eating disorders.”
Eating disorders, which often co-occur with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), can be triggered by many things, and genetics is just one aspect to consider when seeking eating disorder treatment.
“Genetic influences do play a part but they will not cause an eating disorder on their own,” said Dr. Anthea Fursland, president of the Australian and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders, in an article in The Sydney Morning Herald. “Eating disorders arise as result of a combination of factors, but the common factor in every case is dieting.”
This new study can help researchers have a better understanding of eating disorders, and find more effective treatment for eating disorders.
“It will give us a better understanding how it is that some people develop an eating disorder,” Steiger said. “It’s not due to moral weakness or character flaws, but real susceptibilities, for which we can find real physical evidence.”
If you think you are struggling with an eating disorder, arm yourself with knowledge of eating disorder symptoms and get needed treatment to decrease the risk of passing it on to future generations.