Anorexia is an eating disorder that can easily develop in people with a family history of the disorder. Read about the role of genetics in anorexia.

Yes, anorexia can be genetic. In recent years, family studies have shown that a person’s biology can contribute to the development of anorexia. According to the organization Eating Disorder Hope, people with a family member who has an eating disorder are about 7 to 12 percent more likely to develop an eating disorder when compared with the general population.

Is Anorexia Inherited?

In 2002, a study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics examined the role of genetics in the development of anorexia. Researchers found a gene on chromosome 1 that makes a person more susceptible to anorexia. They found that the risk of anorexia increased by 11-fold in people with a family history of anorexia.

The most recent and comprehensive examination of the impact of genetics on anorexia was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2017. Researchers at the University of North Carolina conducted a study that compared the genomes of 3,495 individuals with anorexia to those of 10,982 people without the eating disorder.

The study’s authors concluded that a genetic variation on chromosome 12 can increase a person’s risk of developing anorexia by 20 percent. Chromosome 12 is located in a region of the brain associated with the development of type 1 diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

Cynthia Bulik, the lead author of the study, stated that anorexia nervosa was significantly genetically correlated with neuroticism and schizophrenia. This conclusion supports the idea that anorexia is a psychiatric illness.


DeAngelis, Tori. “A genetic link to anorexia.” American Psychological Association, March 2002. Accessed February 19, 2019.

The American Journal of Psychiatry. “Significant Locus and Metabolic Genetic Correlations Revealed in Genome-Wide Association Study of Anorexia Nervosa.” May 12, 2017. Accessed February 19, 2019.

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