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Ground-breaking worldwide study results – Anorexia nervosa is both a genetic and metabolic disorder

A new worldwide study involving more than 100 researchers has proved that genetics contributes to anorexia nervosa and found a strong metabolic component to the illness.

The study which collected samples from nearly 17,000 people around the world who have had anorexia nervosa, including hundreds from New Zealand, and compared it to more than 55,000 people who haven’t ever had the illness, found that there were eight genetic variants associated with anorexia nervosa.

Nicki Wilson, EDANZ chair says it is incredibly helpful for patients and families to know that there is a biological basis for anorexia nervosa and to have a new explanatory framework to understand the illness. 

The research also found that genetic factors associated with anorexia nervosa influence physical activity, which could help explain the tendency for people with anorexia nervosa to be highly active even when acutely ill.

The knowledge that there is a metabolic as well as psychiatric component of the illness reaffirms the importance of restoring and maintaining a healthy weight as a cornerstone of recovery and explains why adequate renourishment, and maintenance is so critical to long-term recovery.

“Anorexia is an extremely serious illness that is challenging to recover from and takes an enormous toll on individuals with the illness and their loved ones,” Nicki says. “The knowledge that it is important to consider both metabolic and psychological risk factors when exploring new avenues for treating this devastating illness will hopefully lead to new and improved treatments.” 

Find out more about the study and what it means for treatment of anorexia nervosa – four blogs from the Study’s lead researcher, Dr Cynthia Bulik:

Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI) Part 1: The Results  

Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI) Part 2: The Process  

The Future of Genetic Research on Eating Disorders ANGI Part 3: An Interview with Patrick Sullivan, MD, FRANZCP  

Personal Reflections and What the ANGI Results Mean for Patients, Families, and Clinicians Today: Part 4

Watch Dr Cynthia Bulik's video: 
Q&A About Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Study (8 mins)


Coming Up...

Parent/Carer Support Groups dates >


Get notified of upcoming events and latest research:


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Past Events and News

Two-hour workshop for carers – presentation followed by questions and answers

Dr Dasha Nicholls, leading expert in the treatment of eating disorders in young people

4–6pm, Thursday 4 April
Nurture Psychology Rooms
Suite 204 | 100 Parnell Road, Auckland

Advances in Eating Disorders in Young People – a UK perspective

  • > Eating disorders in children 
  • > A parents group approach to early intervention 

Dr Dasha Nicholls leads the Child and Adolescent Mental Health research team at Imperial College, London. She is the current chair of the Eating Disorders Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. She led the development of the Junior MARSIPAN guidelines for the management of seriously ill patients with Anorexia Nervosa. She is past president of the Academy of Eating Disorders, the largest international eating disorders professional association.

There is no registration fee as the cost of the event is generously being covered by a donation from the Starship Foundation.


25 Feb - 3 March is Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) 

The week is an international awareness event to fight the myths and misunderstandings that surround eating disorders. This is one of EDANZ’s goals. Our role is to provide help support and understanding for people with eating disorders and their families. We do this in a variety of ways. Our website has a wealth of information including information about understanding eating disorders, treatment and recovery and a range of useful resources.

While recovery is possible for people at any age and stage of illnesses, we know the sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they will make a full and lasting recovery. As well as campaigning to improve access to evidence based treatment, we recognise that we must raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder and encourage and empower people to take action as soon as they detect a problem.

We also know that support from families and carers is crucial to recovery. EDANZ offers support, practical advice and understanding so that people can help their loved one recover from an eating disorder.

How you can get involved in raising awareness and combatting stigma...

Please help us during this week by sharing information with your colleagues, contacts, networks and friends, to help increase the understanding of eating disorders and that recovery is possible. 

Share this website (https://www.ed.org.nz/), follow us on Twitter @edanzinfo https://twitter.com/edanzinfo – spread the word!

EDAW websites which may be of interest:


You may be interested in...

Two videos featuring Dr Lauren Muhlheim of Eating Disorder Therapy LA: 

  1. Dr Muhlheim responds to concerns of some parents who think that family-based treatment won't work for them. Are you worried that FBT will not work? Sometimes parents think that their teen is too independent, too stubborn, or too old for FBT. https://bit.ly/2Gf8srW  

  2. How do you expose your child to fear foods during FBT? https://bit.ly/2RxQyT7  

Dr Muhlheim is also the author of the book When Your Teen Has an Eating Disorder: Practical Strategies to Help Your Teen Recover from Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating available from Amazon https://amzn.to/2WATHp5


New Treatment Approach for Eating Disorders

One-day Workshop with International Research and Treatment Experts from UCSD and Centre for Balanced Living

Auckland, 11 February 2019

Knowledge is Power. Action brings Change. Together they Heal.

Therapists and supports (family carers and friends) have the opportunity to learn and try on a new treatment approach together, to better understand and treat, or respond to, adults who have eating disorders. 

Three international experts, Laura Hill, Stephanie Peck and Christina Wierenga , highly regarded in the treatment and research of eating disorders, will present this one-day workshop for supports and clinicians. The workshop will introduce a NEW treatment approach that is temperament based for eating disorders for those aged 16 and over. Research has found that anorexia nervosa is a severe biologically based illness. Temperament is an umbrella term that includes the genetic, personality traits, brain responses and other biological influences. This new knowledge is power – and it impacts change. Over 95% of clients and their supports have rated this approach as empowering, motivational in changing, helpful and impactful. This workshop provides a foundation for other evidence-based treatments currently available for this serious condition and other eating disorders.  

“Temperament Based Therapy with Supports” (TBT-S) provides both knowledge of why and how the illness develops and is sustained, while providing interactive tools that involve both patients and their supports to learn and practise new actions for change together. In this workshop, both therapists and support persons learn and try on new tools together to impact healing and change. Research findings show significant acceptability and feasibility both at the end of treatment and follow-up.  

"TBT-s is a therapeutic model for ALL eating disorders" [PDF]

Event endorsed by ANZAED
Registration discount offered for ANZAED members (see registration page for details).

ANZAED Logo

Workshop Venue:  University of Auckland, Epsom Campus, 74 Epsom Avenue, Auckland

Video link

Listen to Dr Laura Hill speak on the approach in this TEDx Talk  


EDANZ submission to the Mental Health Inquiry

EDANZ has made a submission to the Government's Mental Health Inquiry .

EDANZ is extremely concerned about the current state of eating disorder treatment in New Zealand. Access to evidence-based treatment is denied to many, and the quality of care within the Ministry of Health's specialist services is inconsistent, resulting in unnecessary suffering for many individuals and their families.

EDANZ's submission contains the voices of many New Zealanders who are affected by these life-threatening illnesses, which EDANZ believes are more common than currently available statistics demonstrate.

Read the submission

Supplementary information to the submission

Read the results of EDANZ's survey that informed the submission


Helping Hands Summit 

Eating Disorder Caregiver Skills

Parents, spouses and anyone who cares for someone with an eating disorder will benefit from this unique and highly informative online summit launching October 13th. Including 10 webinars delivered by leading experts and experienced caregivers along with a free e-book, The Helping Hands Summit will provide you with real-life strategies, accurate information, tools and hope.

Full program and registration at HelpingHandsSummit.com .


Anorexia Nervosa Research - Exciting News! 

Anorexia nervosa is a complex heritable phenotype for which this study has uncovered the first genome-wide significant locus.

A new study from the Eating Disorders Working group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium has just been published reporting an exciting new finding in the search to understand the genetics of anorexia nervosa (1). This study is the most powerful genetic study of anorexia nervosa to date, conducting genome-wide analysis of DNA from 3,495 individuals with anorexia nervosa and 10,982 unaffected individuals.

Learn more  


Opportunities to Participate in Eating Disorders Research 

What Are The Costs Of Eating Disorders In New Zealand?

This important study is still seeking participants from people willing to share their experience via an anonymous online survey.  Follow the latest Project Update link below for more details.

Project Update

Genetics of Anorexia Nervosa research – New Zealand

Project Update


Resources for Adults seeking help or in recovery

ROAR Reach Out and Recover  

(www.reachoutandrecover.com.au)

ROAR  is an interactive resource which has been developed for adults who have eating and body concerns and/or who may be at risk of developing an eating disorder. ROAR assists adults to identify problems with eating and body image, promotes appropriate help-seeking, and provides guidance on how to seek the right support.

The key purpose of the tool is to support the person to seek help promptly and effectively. The user is guided through psychoeducation based on stages of change theory, and then a series of questions about behaviours and thoughts which they answer. These answers populate a report for their health professional as well as a personal report tailored to their responses. The HP report provides the health professional with all the issues the person is experiencing, along with some key messages and advice for the GP. 

ROAR was developed by CEED The Victorian Centre of Excellence for Eating Disorders and sits alongside Feed Your Instinct ( www.feedyourinstinct.com.au ) an interactive tool for parents concerned about their child’s eating and body image.

Tabatha Farrar Eating Disorder Recovery for Adults

Tabitha Farrar recovered fully after battling an eating disorder for over ten years. She is now dedicated to helping others (sufferers and their families) to learn as much as they can in order to recover.  http://tabithafarrar.com . Tabitha provides free recovery guides for partners and parents of adults in recovery, online meal support and ED recovery coaching.