Eating disorders are not due to a failure of will or behavior; rather, they are real, treatable medical illnesses in which certain maladaptive patterns of eating take on a life of their own.
Dieting to a body weight leaner than required for health is highly promoted by current fashion trends, by sales campaigns for special foods, and in some activities and professions. Researchers are investigating how and why initially voluntary behaviors, such as eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, move beyond control for some people and develop into eating disorders.
Studies on the basic biology of appetite control and its alteration by prolonged overeating or starvation have uncovered enormous complexity; in time, their findings may to lead to new pharmacologic treatments for eating disorders. Scientists suspect that multiple genes may interact with environmental and other factors to increase the risk of developing these illnesses.
Anorexia Nervosa. Last reviewed 12/05/2007
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