Is Anorexia Genetic?

It leads to more deaths than any other psychiatric disorder. As many as 10 percent of people in the U.S. with anorexia will die from the condition. Could the key to treating eating disorders be in a person's genes? Doctors are now going inside the brain to “see” anorexia… and they're realizing the problem isn't just in their heads. Studies using MRI imaging of anorexic brains are turning the world of eating disorders upside down. Doctor Walter Kaye says traits that contribute to developing anorexia are genetic. “Heritability is a much more powerful influence than culture is.” What's the difference between an anorexic brain and a healthy one? In one study, participants were given a taste of sugar. In healthy people, the insula and frontal cortex areas of the brain lit up — signaling “wow that tastes good!” that pleasure light didn't turn on in the anorexic's brain. Doctor Kaye says they may literally not recognize when they're hungry or when something tastes good. Doctor Kaye and others are now using their brain scan studies to develop new treatments that target the biology, not just the psychology, of eating disorders. He says he's found anorexics have many of the same personality traits: attention to detail, concern about consequences and a drive to accomplish and succeed.