Anorexia linked to brain abnormality

Size zero may be blamed unfairly, new research suggests

Some girls may be born predisposed to anorexia due to changes in the brain in the womb, new research suggests.

This counteracts the view that anorexia is caused by social factors, such as the pressure to look like very thin models and celebrities.

Dr Ian Frampton, a consultant in paediatric psychology at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, led the study of 200 anorexia sufferers aged 12-25. The researchers found that 70 per cent had subtle changes in brain structure, such as damage to neurotransmitters, which help brain cells communicate.

The changes were due to “random conditions”, according to Dr Frampton, not maternal diet or environment, and were similar to those seen in people suffering from depression, hyperactivity and dyslexia. One in every few hundred girls could be affected in this way.

The findings open the possibility of new drug treatments. In addition, girls could be tested at age eight and those who are vulnerable could be treated accordingly.

“These findings could help us to understand a disease we don’t know how to treat,” said Dr Frampton in the Mail.

“Arguments that social factors, such as girls feeling under pressure to lose weight to look like high-profile women in the media, contain logical flaws because almost everyone is exposed to them, yet only a small percentage of young people get anorexia.”

However, he did not write off the pressure these factors can cause. “Those things are important but there must be other factors, involving genetics and science, that make some young people much more vulnerable than others.”

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