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 Post subject: Eating disorder genes triggered by dieting
PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:43 pm 
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ELEANOR HALL: Eating disorders are blamed on everything from pictures of rake-thin catwalk models to the proportions of Barbie dolls. But now one international expert is pointing to our genes.

Professor Howard Steiger is the director of eating disorders at Montreal's Douglas University Institute for Mental Health. He told Sarah Dingle that in many cases, becoming anorexic or bulimic is in the genes and the trigger is going on a diet.

HOWARD STEIGER: Our understanding of eating disorders has really evolved over the years. Used to think of it as something that was a product of problematic families or too much media pressure towards thinness.

Now of course these things play a role but if the eating disorders teach us one thing it's about how environmental factors can kind of switch on in the susceptibility in certain people. Anybody can have an inbuilt susceptibility and but what we're really talking about here is the ways in which people who carry proneness to anxiety or things like that can then become very vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition brought on by too much dieting.

We used to think of genetic things as kind of programs that were fixed, you carried certain genes, you were condemned to have certain kinds of traits throughout your life. Now we understand that genes are much more sophisticated than that, they kind of learn from the environment, they respond to environmental pressure.

SARAH DINGLE: So when you're talking about turning on potential, what are the triggers in an environment which could cause an eating disorder?

HOWARD STEIGER: It actually starts in the womb. Your mother's nutritional state and your mother's emotional state has effects that can actually imprint epigenetically the way genes get expressed.

Early life stress is very important, the early life period is one where people are very susceptible to what we call epigenetic regulation.

And then finally the ultimate trigger for the problem is dieting. Through dieting you reduce access to certain nutrients that are necessary for normal neural function and in some people in particular, we have evidence to see that they're nervous systems are structured in a way that would make them particularly susceptible to the effects of dieting.

SARAH DINGLE: And for how many people, what proportion of the population, would dieting be that critical switch?

HOWARD STEIGER: We know that somewhere around 15 per cent of the female population will develop significant enough problems with eating and body image to warrant thinking of that as an eating disorder. A diet gradually erodes or disregulates the appetite regulation systems that work in your nervous system that keep you eating in a more regulated way.

SARAH DINGLE: How can we use this information on genetic factors to tackle the problem of eating disorders?

HOWARD STEIGER: We can eventually develop drugs that switch on favourable genetic effects and switch off adverse ones.

Maybe turning on people's ability to cope more effectively with stress or turning off the tendency to be perfectionistic and too intense of a dieter.

At another level, if we can understand these processes we can sort of develop a marker that would help us know whether somebody has truly recovered from their eating disorder and is kind of out of the woods. Paradoxically it humanises therapy.

Instead of seeing people as being weak-willed, superficial or over-anxious, instead of blaming families for the damage that they've done to their eating disordered daughters, we understand that eating disorders don't occur because of moral weakness or a lack of character, they happen in people who carry real physical susceptibilities that are kind of carried by genes and then acted upon by environmental influences on those genes.

I often say to my patients, you know, you didn't ask for the eating disorder, you were walking along the sidewalk when the movers dropped the piano.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Professor Howard Steiger from Montreal's Douglas University speaking there to Sarah Dingle.

Eating disorder genes triggered by dieting

Kizzi wrote:
It will always be there, sitting between you and the incredible life that is waiting on the other side. So I guess it's up to you when you want to deal with it, how many years you think is enough of a sacrifice, how much life you are willing to lose.

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 Post subject: Re: Eating disorder genes triggered by dieting
PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:12 am 
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I often say to my patients, you know, you didn't ask for the eating disorder, you were walking along the sidewalk when the movers dropped the piano

Thanks :) :heart:

All flowers in time bend towards the sun ♥♡♥

Life is what you make it :)

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