Anorexia Caused By … The Womb?


A new study of anorexic children and young people found that genetics, and what happens in the womb, could explain more about the causes of anorexia than Kate Moss’ impact on body image. Does this mean marketers are in some degree off the hook for pushing skinny ideals of beauty?

Researchers found that 70 per cent of anorexic children and young people they studied showed signs of problems with neurotransmitters, chemicals which help brain cells communicate.

Their report, to be unveiled at a conference at the Institute of Education in London this week, suggests that these developmental changes meant the patients were particularly vulnerable to eating disorders, prompting its authors to propose screening children at the age of eight and experts to claim it could “pave the way for the first drugs”.

One of the report’s authors, Ian Frampton, an honorary consultant in paediatric psychology at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “Our research shows that certain kids’ brains develop in such a way that makes them more vulnerable to the more commonly known risk factors for eating disorders, such as the size-zero debate, media representations of very skinny women and bad parents.

“Arguments that social factors such as girls feeling under pressure to lose weight in order 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.”

Of course any disorder that someone argues could be entirely treatable “by drugs” makes us skeptical.


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  • dellisonly

    I call bullshit! The fashion industry and models in general have a great deal to do with eating disorders.

    It is not a cliche phrase if it is true. Researchers just want to blame the mother for everything these days.

  • mbb

    “Does this mean marketers are in some degree off the hook for pushing skinny ideals of beauty?”

    The part of the article you posted actually refutes your post. The research “shows that certain kids’ brains develop in such a way that makes them more vulnerable to the more commonly known risk factors for eating disorders, such as the size-zero debate, media representations of very skinny women and bad parents.”

    The research just shows that genetics are a contributing factor along with all the other factors. It also doesn’t say anything about the non-anorexia problems associated with these representations, including anxiety, depression, lack of self-esteem . . .

    Sorry, this post was dumb.

  • CitizenGeek

    The Fashion industry does not employ anorexics. Just look at that photo Queerty is using and show me any model that even remotely resembles that. Clothes look better on thin people, or at least most people agree that this is true. The fashion industry does not have a duty to keep teenagers healthy.

  • sam

    It’s fallacious to blame anorexia entirely on “cultural images of thinness” &c &c, in the same way that it’s silly to blame gambling addictions on the existence of asymetrical information. Clearly, neurochemistry is relevant here. It’s also interesting to note that eating disorders are among the most difficult to treat clinically, partly because of a lack of appropriate supporting drugs.

    Also, MBB: sad teenagers are sad teenagers. We can talk about whether or not certain memes encourage certain beliefs or behaviors, but even if you removed all graven images of any kind, some people would have more friends than others and some people would be sadder than others.

  • Cam

    This is B.S. It isn’t that messed up nerotransmitters cause annorexia, it is much more likely that Annorexia causes messed up neurotransmitters. the fact that this disorder did not exist 100 years ago would lead any rational person to believe it is not something you are born with.

  • Stitch

    @ Cam

    Let’s not forget somethign else that was much more “uncommon” 100 years ago… out homosexuals.

    Simply because something was less common in a completely different societal structure and landscape doesn’t mean it has been contemporarily created.

    Obesity wasn’t common 100 years ago, but it wasn’t created by McDonald’s. Some people are genetically predisposed to obesity. Same goes for anorexia I would say.

  • mbb

    @sam: You missed the point. Anorexia isn’t about “having more friends than others” or being “sadder than others.” Anorexia actually kills 6% of the people affected by it. Most of the people in these comments reduce these problems to either/or propositions. Either advertising is or is not responsible for eating disorders. Either McDonalds did or did not create obesity. It’s a big, complicated world out there and most things are overdetermined, i.e., have multiple and overlapping causes. Psychology is not about blame or fault, it’s about locating the causes of problems and/or attempting to provide a remedy.

    Anorexia is actually defined this way in DSM-IV:

    1. Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected; or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected).
    2. Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming obese
    3. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
    4. The absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles (amenorrhea) in women who have had their first menstrual period but have not yet gone through menopause (postmenarcheal, premenopausal females).

  • pdnoosh

    That photo is DISGUSTING. You really should have posted a warning. Fat acceptance is one thing, but that woman is a COW.

    (Why yes, I have been reading Vogue since preschool. Why do you ask?)

  • QueerDiscourse

    Dear Queerty-

    You’re still being stupid.


  • rogue dandelion

    i think this morning goods is a little odd. i mean, is he even 18 yet;?

  • halan

    i am SO glad that i am not ‘skinny’ im not sayyin g that im extrememly over-weight but i am half a stone more than i should be ..but being skinny can lead to eating dis-orders and then anorexia..! so be happy about your weight .. its all i can say

  • williany ortega

    uhhh que feas esas imagenes y pienzo que esas personas deberian de buskr alluda PARA MEJOPR SU ESTADO PSICOLOGICO… IOP ISE LÑA TESIS DE ESO Y PINZO Q ESO ES UN PROBLEMA Q ESTA EN LA MENTE OSEA PSICOLOGICO…

  • Manuel

    dios mio que grotezco pobres mujeres deben estar mentalmente enfermas para no reaccionar ante la anorexia

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