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.