Diet & Nutrition

Researchers find link between anorexia and autism

Anorexic obsession could be linked with behaviours associated with autism, a new study says.
Eating disorders and behavioural disorders like autism are two of the biggest health issues plaguing teenagers, and researchers at the University of Cambridge may have found a link between the two.
A new study has found teenage girls with obsessions with food and calorie counting share an above-average number of autistic traits — a neurodevelopmental condition more commonly seen in boys.
Researchers believe the study of around 1700 girls aged 12 to 16 may change the way anorexia is viewed and treated, as it is usually viewed purely as an eating disorder.
The study tested 66 anorexic girls for autistic traits and compared their results to 1600 healthy girls of the same age.
Those who had anorexia tended to display traits associated with autism like showing poorer levels of empathy, and scored highly on tests associating with ‘systemising’, an obsession with rules and patterns.
Girls with anorexia were five times more likely to score within the range typically associaed with autism.
Researcher Simon Baron-Cohen says this is a breakthrough in understanding anorexia and could lead to more effective treatment.
“Traditionally anorexia has been viewed purely as an eating disorder,” he told the Daily Mail.
“But this research is suggesting that underlying the surface behaviour, the mind of a person with anorexia may share a lot in common with the mind of a person with autism.
“In both conditions, there is a strong interest in systems.
“In girls with anorexia, they have latched onto a system that concerns body weight, shape and food intake.”
Co-researcher Dr tony Jaffa suggested directing the focus in systems that girls with anorexia have towards other activities like rowing or other pastimes that involve rules and patterns could be effective.
“Recognising that some patients with anorexia may also need help with social skills and communication and with adapting to change also gives us a new treatment angle.”

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