Studying the Genetics of Eating Disorders

I recently posted a link to participating in a study for those who have experienced any type of eating disorder in their lifetime. The study, called EDGI (Eating Disorder Genetic Initiative) is an international research study designed to understand how genes can influence the risk for developing an eating disorder. As we know eating disorders are life-disrupting, complicated, and have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.

The notion that eating disorders may be impacted from or influenced by genetic factors was introduced in the 1990’s and has continued to be a strong component of their study. The genetic aspect of eating disorders could help explain why the Jewish community has been found to suffer from a higher percentage of both disordered eating and eating disorders overall. Interestingly in a 2016 study (Shih & Woodside), selected genetic variations were found to actually change the metabolism of certain nutrients. These variations lead to a statistically higher predisposition for developing an eating disorder. As we know that there is not one single cause or issue that can pinpoint those at risk for disordered eating or eating disorders since numerous factors influence ED development and onset, therefore understanding what we can about them is critical in helping to help prevent and properly treat them. This is precisely why the groundbreaking study of EDGI is so needed and critical to our understanding of eating disorder onset. As someone who struggled in my younger years with an eating disorder, I know first hand how insidious and destructive they can be, extending to all areas of the affected one’s life, with consequences encompassing the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual. Sadly, eating disorders are associated with multitudes of damaging consequences including not only the affected individual, but their entire family, as well as society overall. I urge anyone who has suffered or continues to suffer from, or even thinks they may have suffered from, an eating disorder at any time in her life to visit the website www.edgi.org and see if you are eligible to participate. Let’s all help one another better understand our potential risks and how they manifest for each of us. Ultimately this will lead to better treatment for and prevention of these devastating disorders.

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