Industry professionals were in Fremantle last week for the Momentum and Milestones Eating Disorders Conference, with US anorexia nervosa study investigator and keynote speaker Cynthia Bulik using the conference to discuss new research that showed a possible genetic link between anorexia nervosa and suicide attempts.
Dr Bulik said the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI), which has 193 WA representatives taking part, aimed to identify the genes that caused the illness.
“Our Australian arm of ANGI is seeking volunteers to shed light on the genes that predispose people to anorexia nervosa, which we know has a strong but as of yet unspecified genetic predisposition,” she said.
“Twin studies have shown anorexia nervosa is about 60 per cent heritable and our research further reveals shared genetic factors may underpin the co-occurrence of both anorexia nervosa and suicide attempts.
“Our research helps clarify that biological factors and genetic factors play a role in anorexia nervosa.
“Moreover, some of those genetic factors may overlap with genetic factors that influence suicide attempts, which helps explain why one in five deaths from anorexia are due to suicide.”
According to the research, suicide accounted for 20 per cent of anorexia nervosa-related deaths.
Dr Bulik said they expected results from the ANGI study would help them further explain the illness and improve treatment.