Genetic Link Between Anorexia, Autism: Study

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2009 6:11 PM CDT
A giant poster showing a naked emaciated woman, part of a campaign against anorexia.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Anorexia might not be a social or psychological malady but rather an inherited genetic problem, Time reports. Furthermore, researchers see commonalities between that condition and autism. “Both autism-spectrum conditions and anorexia share a narrow focus of attention, a resistance to change and excellent attention to detail,” one doctor said. And the different conditions could be explained by the gender gap.

Fifteen times as many boys are diagnosed with Asperger’s—a mild form of autism—than girls, and girls are 10 times more likely to be anorexic. Researchers posit that gender causes the underlying condition to manifest differently: a focus on weight for girls, on cars and trains for boys. “We are where autism was 20 years ago,” a doctor said. “Anorexia is as biological as autism. It’s just 20 years behind in terms of research.” (Read more anorexia stories.)