Home > Causes > Biological Factors & Eating Disorders

Biological Factors & Eating Disorders

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 2 Mar 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Eating Disorders heredity hereditary

The exact causes of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder remain unknown, but research continues to investigate if biological factors could be the culprits. Genetics research and investigations into hormonal links are the two more frequently explored areas of biological explanations for eating disorders, though research into hereditary personality types is also being conducted. While some associations can be found between these biological factors and eating disorders, there are as yet no definite, causal links between any of them. So, can biological factors cause an eating disorder? Right now, the answer remains - maybe.

Genetics
Modern scientific and medical communities have conducted a number of studies to determine if genetic factors influence the development of eating disorders. The results of the studies so far remain unable to confirm that genetics contribute to, or indeed cause, eating disorders.

Some researchers have found connections between genetics and either too much or not enough serotonin receptors in the brain. These receptors are a part of the pathway which helps signal hunger and fullness to the body and it is thought that this might affect eating disorders. Some studies have also discovered that individuals who have family members who suffer from eating disorders have higher incidences of eating disorders themselves. This seems to be true of sisters, and in particular twins. This is not to say that there is definitely an identifiable genetic predisposition to eating disorders, but it does suggest that further investigation into eating disorders and genetics is needed.

Hormones
Recent research has also undertaken to determine if hormones could be a (or the) biological cause of eating disorders. Some studies have shown that disturbances to the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary gland (both involved with hormone production) can be linked to anorexia.

However, it has yet to be proven that these disturbances definitely contribute to the development of anorexia, though a number of studies have reported that in 30 – 50% of the cases in which the menstrual cycle is disturbed in anorexics, the disturbances were actually present before severe weight loss occurred and then remained problematic even after weight was put back on. Though no causal link has been found between low reproductive hormones and eating disorders, it continues to be an area of investigation as does the general subject of hormones and eating disorders.

Personality Types
The one biological factor that does seem to have a definite link to the development of eating disorders is personality type. It has been documented that some personality types, including obsessive-compulsive and sensitive-avoidant personalities, are much more susceptible to eating disorders than other types. As personality types are known to have hereditary and therefore biological bases, it can be said that they are biological factors contributing to, if not certainly causing, eating disorders. Other investigations into the hereditary basis of conditions associated with eating disorders, such as depression, are also on-going.

Whether or not biological factors can and do cause eating disorders is still under investigation. At the moment, scientists are prepared to say that it appears as though some biological factors such as genetics, hormones and personality types are associated with eating disorders, but not that they absolutely do cause or contribute to them.

For further information on biological factors and eating disorders, consult a medical professional or contact the Eating Disorders Association and/or National Centre for Eating Disorders.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Hi im doing a research paper on a biological approach towards eating disorders such as bulimia and binge eating. I am specifically writing about hormones and how it plays a role on why it effects the eating disorders. Could you send me some articles that gas been done to look through this please. Thank you
Tavo - 2-Mar-18 @ 1:17 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • ???.??
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I'm eating the walls (not just the paint. Also the stoney stuff behind the paint.) I've been doing it for 2 years by now and I really am trying my…
    11 August 2018
  • Bevv
    Re: Eating by Texture
    @Danielle - yes all these things too. Soup, hummus even dips I can't eat.
    10 August 2018
  • Danielle
    Re: Eating by Texture
    I’m this way! I can’t do slimy - yogurt is the worst. I really want to eat healthier but yogurt, beans, fish all make me gag (at times vomit). I…
    3 August 2018
  • MissyF
    Re: Why Does Eating Make Me Feel Sick?
    @Monse - you really need to see a doctor. You have to be careful as the less you eat the more difficult it becomes. The…
    10 July 2018
  • Monse
    Re: Why Does Eating Make Me Feel Sick?
    I need help but I can’t find anything that I have on the internet. I’m afraid to eat because I have emetophobia (the fear…
    10 July 2018
  • Ande
    Re: Oesophagus Problems for Bulimics
    Just a little warning out there for people engaging in behaviors......I was anorexic/bulimic for over 20 years. It was…
    9 July 2018
  • EatingDisorderExpert
    Re: Pica Disorder
    Shin - Your Question:We know that eating wall paints is hazardous , dangerous Nd really very silly.bt still we used to eat that.I want to stop that ,bt
    25 June 2018
  • Shin
    Re: Pica Disorder
    We know that eating wall paints is hazardous , dangerous Nd really very silly ..bt still we used to eat that ... I want to stop that ,bt I can't…
    24 June 2018
  • EatingDisorderExpert
    Re: The Menstrual Cycle and Eating Disorders
    Paula - Your Question:Hi there, I have -on and off- been dealing with Anorexia for nearly 10 years now. What…
    11 June 2018
  • Paula
    Re: The Menstrual Cycle and Eating Disorders
    Hi there, I have -on and off- been dealing with Anorexia for nearly 10 years now. What started when I was 15 has…
    10 June 2018