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Seeking Aussies for major anorexia study

Seeking Aussies for major anorexia study
Photo: Seeking Aussies for major anorexia study
Australian and international researchers are aiming to identify the genes that predispose people to the eating disorder.

Ultimately they hope to find a cure for the illness that currently affects an estimated 53,000 Australians.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute head of genetic research Professor Nick Martin says the study will help scientists gain a better understanding of anorexia nervosa's causes and in turn eliminate the associated stigma.

"By saying this has a strong genetic component, just like diabetes or asthma, I think to that extent it de-stigmatises it," says Prof Martin.

"People don't have to go around with those terrible feelings of guilt and blame and so on."

The study is being conducted in four centres: Denmark, Sweden, the US and a combined Australia and New Zealand site.
Australia aims to recruit 2200 blood donors within the next two years.

Volunteers can be male or female of any age who have anorexia nervosa or have had the illness at some stage in their lives.

"The potential gain from this is huge," says Prof Martin.

"We'd be so grateful if patients came forward just to give a little bit of their time, just an online questionnaire and a small blood sample."

The researchers will compare the DNA of people who have never had a eating disorder to those who have had or still have anorexia nervosa.

Prof Martin says identifying these genes may pave the way for new treatments.

"What you're going to see in the next 10 to 20 years as this research comes to fruition is a whole range of new drugs being developed that are much more specific than anything that has been available before," he says.

Dr Sarah Maguire, director of the Centre for Eating and Dieting Disorders in Sydney, says the study will help researchers work towards a deeper understanding of the illness and ultimately a cure.

"We know the causes of anorexia nervosa are varied and complex and include a combination of environmental, social and cultural factors," says Dr Maguire.

"However, genetic predisposition is a known cause and should be a key area of focus."

1. Skipping meals
2. Eating safe foods only, low in fat and calories
3. Displaying eating rituals (e.g. slicing food into small pieces)
4. Preparing large meals but refusing to eat
5. Repetitive weighing
6. Frequently looking in mirrors for body flaws
7. Consistent complaints of being fat
8. Fear of eating in public places.
* For more information, or to register for ANGI, visit or call 1800 257 179.


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