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Researchers progress with groundbreaking anorexia study

April 22, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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What is being called the largest genetic investigation of eating disorders in history is moving toward a July close of its recruitment phase, with numbers well in excess of original projections. The Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI) is taking place in four countries, with the U.S. site housed within the University of North Carolina Department of Psychiatry.

Researchers at the U.S. site had originally projected collecting 500 blood samples by the end of the recruitment phase, but later revised that goal upward to 1,500. The study is using questionnaires and blood samples to expand on the knowledge of the causes of eating disorders, with comparisons of individuals with anorexia nervosa and those with no eating disorder history.

According to a University of North Carolina webpage providing periodic updates on the research, some of the higher-than-anticipated interest in participation stems from requests from men to be included (the study originally was recruiting only women and girls). Researchers state that the decision to broaden the study population made sense on several levels.

They wrote, “First, men and boys are underrepresented in research on anorexia nervosa and we didn't want to contribute to that trend. Second, some data suggest that family psychiatric history is even stronger in males with anorexia, which could possibly suggest that a greater genetic loading might be necessary for expression of the disorder in males.”

The original worldwide recruitment goal of 8,000 also is very likely to be exceeded by this summer. Research centers in Australia, Sweden and Denmark are also participating in the landmark genetic study.

“ANGI represents a global effort to detect genetic variation that contributes to this potentially life-threatening illness,” states the University of North Carolina website. ANGI is an initiative of the Klarman Family Foundation.