Eat up, mom

OK, this is fascinating on so many levels, and I'm looking forward to reading the whole paper, but I am perversely tickled at one unexpected protective factor against anorexia:

Higher maternal weight.

Childhood Risk Factors for Lifetime Anorexia Nervosa

"Childhood Risk Factors for Lifetime Anorexia Nervosa by Age 30 Years in a National Birth Cohort.

OBJECTIVE:: To examine whether previously identified childhood risk factors for anorexia nervosa (AN) predict self-reported lifetime AN by age 30 years in a prospective birth cohort. METHOD:: Using data from the 1970 British Cohort Study, at birth, 5, 10, and 30 years, we examined associations between suggested childhood risk factors and self-reported lifetime AN at 30 years, adjusted for sex and socioeconomic status. RESULTS:: Anorexia nervosa was independently predicted by female sex (odds ratio [OR] 22.1), infant feeding problems (OR 2.6), maternal depressive symptoms (OR 1.8), and a history of undereating (OR 2.7). High self-esteem (OR 0.3) and higher maternal body mass index (OR 0.91) were protective. CONCLUSIONS:: Of 22 suggested risk factors for AN, only four risk and two protective factors were confirmed in this prospective cohort study. We did not identify a role for perinatal factors, parenting, childhood body mass index, childhood emotional or sleep problems, academic ability, or exercise."


  1. Have you read much about epigenetics? That's basically what this study is about, I think. Epigentics is about how environment changes the expression of genes. There are some really fascinating, bizarre things they've found from these studies, like how if a boy starves in childhood his grandchildren live longer (and vice versa).

    Genetics is so cool.

  2. I haven't looked up the information to verify, but I'm going with a hunch based on the many studies I've read: people with a history of AN (or if AN is in the family) probably have a lower average body weight. So higher maternal weight may as much be due to fewer AN "risk genes" as much as anything.

    I've also read a study that found low birth weight to be a predictor for AN. It could very well be that low birth weight in and of itself increases risk of AN, but mothers with ED histories are also more likely to give birth prematurely.

    And epigenetics is so cool. There's been a lot of work with BDNF and epigenetics in recent month- I was at a press conference at an international neuroscience conference all about that. Really cool stuff.

  3. I find genetics and epigenetics fascinating and rich with possible clues to life and living well.

    "Know thy self."

  4. Thanks for posting this, Laura. Too bad my higher maternal BMI didn't protect my D! It was interesting that childhood emotional problems didn't predict EDs. I thought that kids who manifest anorexia often had higher than average anxiety and perfectionistic traits when young. It was informative to see that "parenting" didn't predict an ED, and I'd like to see what exactly they studied in this regard. I am always glad to see more research that puts the "parents cause EDs" myth to rest.


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