UCSD Logo Health conditions like anorexia nervosa and bulimia may be surprisingly common. Apparently, most treatments don’t work with all patients. A study conducted by scientists at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has unraveled the genetic variations that have an influential effect on a patient’s recovery from anorexia or bulimia.

Anorexia and bulimia are severe eating disorders and many studies have disclosed that they share certain risk variables. Analysts suggest that there may be a genetic component attached to behaviors that trigger vulnerability to these conditions.

Walter H. Kaye, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of UCSD’s Eating Disorder Treatment and Research Program, commented “This study sheds light on important ‘SNPs’ or genetic variations within an individual’s DNA, associated with long-term, chronic eating disorders. These variations suggest genetic predictors for patients who may be particularly susceptible to eating disorders and whose illnesses are most difficult to treat effectively.”

According to Kaye, these traits were also related to persons who are very anxious and worry a lot over mistakes. The study’s lead author, Cinnamon Bloss, believes that such disorders have their origin in the culture, family, life changes and personality attributes too. She adds that genetics play an important role in comprehending the cause and methods of treatment.

The scientists state that persons with anorexia are apparently resistant to treatment and lack knowledge of the medical results of their actions which leads to chronic, persistent illness and even death. The question that seemed to be staring at the scientists was whether there were prognostic factors that may help physicians discover good versus weak outcomes for treatments inclusive of medication or psychotherapies.

The team examined around 1,878 women as a part of an extensive candidate gene association study. The analysis was based on hypotheses concerning the genes, their avenues and biological mechanisms related to a tendency of eating disorders. A majority of them suffered from anorexia, or both anorexia and bulimia. They also seemingly had lower body mass index, higher anxiety and concern over flaws, which were not the case with the control group.

The investigators then stumbled upon the top 25 most prominent single-neucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) after gauging around 5,151 SNPs in nearly 350 genes. It came to light that 10 of the 25 most severely linked ‘haplotypes’ comprised SNPs in GABA genes. An intronic SNP on chromosome 4 of the gene GABRGI displayed strong inter-relations to chronic signs. The study unfolds genes that pre-dispose individuals to a chronic pathway of an eating disorder. Bloss concluded that further trials may be needed to affirm such links.

The findings are reported online in the journal Neuropsychopharmcology.