Scientists at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have identified both common and rare gene variants associated with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. In the largest genetic study of this psychiatric disorder, the researchers found intriguing clues to genes they are subjecting to further investigation, including genes active in neuronal signaling and in shaping interconnections among brain cells. Anorexia nervosa (AN) affects an estimated 9 in 1000 women in the United States. Patients have food refusal, weight loss, an irrational fear of weight gain even when emaciated, and distorted self-image of body weight and shape. Women are affected 10 times more frequently than men, with the disorder nearly always beginning during adolescence. AN has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders, and successful treatment is challenging.
Adolescents who diet and develop disordered eating behaviors (unhealthy and extreme weight control behaviors and binge eating) carry these unhealthy practices into young adulthood and beyond, according to a study conducted by University of Minnesota researchers and published in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. "The findings from the current study argue for early and ongoing efforts aimed at the prevention, early identification, and treatment of disordered eating behaviors in young people, " commented lead investigator. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD, Professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota. "Within clinical practices, dietitians and other health care providers should be asking about the use of these behaviors prior to adolescence, throughout adolescence, and into young adulthood.
Hospitalizations of children younger than 12 years rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006, a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revealed in the journal Pediatrics. Overall, including all age groups, the same period saw a 15% increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders. The typical profile for an at-risk individual (child) is no longer useful, the authors stress. The AAP urges doctors and pediatricians to screen all children, adolescents and pre-adolescents for anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders. The screening should occur during routine check-ups. It is a myth that only Caucasian, well-off females are at risk, David S. Rosen, MD, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and team wrote. If an individual has a compulsion to eat or not eat, and that compulsion has a negative effect on their physical and mental health, they probably have an eating disorder.
In the past decade, a growing number of children and adolescents have been diagnosed with eating disorders. In a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), "Identification and Management of Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents, " published in the December 2010 issue of Pediatrics (published online Nov. 29), it is estimated that 0.5 percent of adolescent girls in the United States have anorexia nervosa, and 1 percent to 2 percent meet criteria for bulimia nervosa. There is an increasing recognition of eating disorders in males, which now represent up to 10 percent of all cases of eating disorders, as well as in children of younger ages. A recent analysis by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality revealed that from 1999 to 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders in children under 12 years of age increased by 119 percent.
A new intervention supporting the carers of people suffering anorexia nervosa is now being trialled at hospitals across the country. The adult eating disorders team at South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust, led by Prof. Janet Treasure, recognised that, while parents and partners are the most important source of help for someone with anorexia nervosa, the pressures of caring can lead to the formation of damaging patterns of behaviour. These behaviours cause distress to both parties - perpetuating anorexia nervosa symptoms and often requiring carers themselves to seek psychological treatment. Expert Carers Helping Others (ECHO) is a guided self-help intervention that uses volunteer 'coaches' with direct experience of managing anorexia nervosa - either as carers whose children have recovered or are in recovery, or people who have recovered from the condition themselves - to optimise carers' effectiveness in promoting recovery.