Passing on an eating disorder

Claire Vickery was not surprised when scientists announced that eating disorders have a genetic link, because she and her two daughters suffered from the illness.

Hmm… I wonder how strong these epigenetic effects are when the offspring are raised in a different environment.

Eating disorders specialist Professor Howard Steiger, of McGill University in Montreal, told a conference in Adelaide last week that new discoveries in epigenetics show mothers pass a genetic predisposition to eating disorders to their children.

”The science of epigenetics is relatively new,” he said at the National Eating Disorders Collaboration National Workshop. ”Epigenetics helps explain how adverse development, stress, malnutrition and other influences can affect development of mental-health problems – including eating disorders.”

Ms Vickery, 56, said she had bulimia from the ages of 16 to 29. ”I’m sure I’m carrying the gene.”

However, the president of the Australian and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders, Dr Anthea Fursland, said that genes alone would not result in a child developing an eating disorder. ”Genetic influences do play a part but they will not cause an eating disorder on their own,” she said. ”Eating disorders arise as result of a combination of factors but the common factor in every case is dieting.”

Ms Vickery’s two daughters, Anna and Laura, both had eating disorders when they were younger. They have all recovered but Ms Vickery’s experience led her to set up the Butterfly Foundation, which encourages prevention, treatment and support of those affected by eating disorders.


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2 responses to “Passing on an eating disorder

  1. “eating disorders have a genetic link”

    It’s called learning to eat from mommy and daddy.

  2. “The science of epigenetics is relatively new, but we hope to grow as big as climatology.”

    There, I fixed it for him.

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