Researchers are conducting experiments to identify the role genetics and early eating habits play in conditions such as bulimia and anorexia.
Early eating disorders could lead to number of problems and diseases in adults and children. According to MQ: Transforming Mental Health, an international mental health research charity, eating disorders, which often arise before adulthood, have been increasing in recent years and about a quarter of young people report having symptoms.
Researchers at the University College London are trying to identify the symptoms and causes of eating disorders at an early stage in order to find a cure to prevent it from developing and find new treatment therapy including drugs that trigger appetite. The research was funded through the MQ Rosetrees Fellowship and aims to examine the influence of genetics and childhood eating patterns on obesity.
Previous studies focused on psychological risk factors, such as body image and self-esteem, but the UCL research team is taking an alternative approach.
Dr Clare Llewellyn, PhD at University College London lead researcher of the study, said: “In the field, what’s been talked about more is the social things, the extent to which the parent talks to the child about the child’s weight and their own weight and whether their parents have eating disorders. What we don’t know is the child’s own traits and predispositions.”
The team is studying the hypothesis that some of the code that underpins genetic susceptibility to disordered eating is similar to that already identified as affecting body mass index. This might help the researchers to detect the disease in early stages through screening.