Environment starts in the womb

One of my (many, I know) pet peeves in the discussion of what causes eating disorders is the "nature vs. nurture" badminton match.

Those who like to dismiss nature choose to see biology as genetics alone. They use "nurture" to mean environment and environment to mean "how mom behaves and dad doesn't behave and how society objectifies and how peers influence."

But environment starts in the womb. The prenatal soup is part of "nature" AND "nurture." This has been known for a while, of course, but media reports always like to use a breathless "who'd a thunk it" quality.

Twin studies are fun, because they elucidate nature and nuture. Just sharing a womb with a twin can influence your chance of a later eating disorder, as do more older siblings and having fewer brothers , smoking during pregnancy, a strep infection - all biological influences that are not (completely) genetically coded.

Eating disorders are real, biologically based brain disease - with behavioral symptoms; good treatment is both biological and psychological. We've got to stop batting the birdie over the net at each other and start talking - over a good meal - about solutions.


  1. A good meal and enlightening conversation- here, here!

    -C'est Grande Idee!-

  2. I'll bring my cat- I'm sure she'd love to dine on the birdie. :)

    Have you read "Nature via Nurture" by Matt Ridley? Great book on this subject. The paperback is titled "The Agile Gene". He's the one who wrote "Genome: An Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters" which is one of my all time favorite books.


  3. Very interesting article in the latest edition of Newsweek called "A Changing Portrait of DNA"


    It talks about how NEITHER nature or nuture is the total picture....how genes have "switches" so that identical mice reared in the same environment pre and post-natally can look and TOTALLY different based on something as little as one small difference in diet. Fascinating.

  4. Meant to say "can look AND ACT totally different". Next time I'll proofread.


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