Eating disorders are believed to be caused by a complex interaction of genetic and environmental factors, according to background information in the article. Observational reports suggest that problems during neurodevelopment in the fetus might lead to anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa later in life, and some studies have found a correlation between obstetric complications and anorexia nervosa. "Obstetric complications might have more than one role in the etiopathogenesis of eating disorders; first, they may cause hypoxic-induced damage to the brain that impairs the neurodevelopment of the fetus, and second, the adequacy of nutrition during pregnancy and in the immediate postnatal period seems to influence the nutritional status of the adult and appetite programming throughout life," the authors write.
Angela Favaro, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Padua, Italy, completed an analysis of 114 females with anorexia nervosa, 73 with bulimia nervosa and a control group of 554 without either condition, all born at Padua Hospital between Jan. 17, 1971, and Dec. 30, 1979. Fifteen of the people with anorexia, 22 with bulimia and all of the control subjects had participated in a previous study of the prevalence of eating disorders in Padua. The authors added in a sample of 99 people with anorexia and 51 with bulimia who had been referred to an outpatient clinic for their conditions. They then merged the samples and analyzed data about obstetric complications obtained from hospital archives.
Several specific complications in the mother--including maternal anemia (low levels of hemoglobin in the blood), diabetes mellitus and placental infarction (death of part of the
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