Nevertheless, the study’s conclusions increase our understanding of genetic contributors to anorexia.
She went back in 19—before and after television became widespread in the country—and noted a striking increase in the number of girls who reported “purging” themselves to look more like women they saw on TV.
Becker says science still has an incomplete understanding of how social norms, food insecurity and social determinants of poor health affect vulnerability to the disorder.
“We don't know what the mechanism is here yet,” she says.
“It’s just something that we've seen clinically for years but haven’t thought about as potentially [involving] opposite ends of the same underlying process.” Bulik and her colleagues published a study in 2017 that analyzed the genomes of about 3,500 people with anorexia.
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Now, however, a new study has examined the genomes of tens of thousands of people and identified eight chromosome locations that may increase vulnerability to the illness.
The subjects were from 17 countries, and all of them had European ancestry.
This time, the researchers identified eight genetic loci linked to the disorder, although Bulik says there are likely hundreds.
“Right now, we have no medications effective in treatment of this illness,” she says.
“We’re starting at zero.” Attia agrees that learning more about the genetics involved is a helpful first step toward therapies.