Neonatal Complications Linked to Eating Disorders Later On

Study suggests that resulting brain impairments may increase risk of anorexia or bulimia

TUESDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Certain obstetric and neonatal complications, including maternal anemia, diabetes mellitus and neonatal hyporeactivity, are associated with a child's risk of developing anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa later in life, according to a study in the January issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Angela Favaro, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Padua, Italy, and colleagues studied 114 women with anorexia nervosa, 73 women with bulimia nervosa and 554 controls, all born between 1971 and 1979.

The researchers found an increased risk of anorexia nervosa in women whose mothers had maternal anemia, diabetes mellitus or placental infarction, and women who experienced cardiac problems, hypothermia, tremors or hyporeactivity as neonates.

Risk factors for bulimia nervosa included placental infarction, neonatal hyporeactivity, early difficulties with eating, shorter than average birth length and low birth weight. The investigators found that subjects with more than five complications developed anorexia nervosa at an average age of 16.3 years, compared with 17.5 years for those with one to five complications, and 18.8 years for those with no complications.

"According to a neurodevelopmental hypothesis, it would be important to understand which specific functions of the brain are impaired by obstetric complications and how these alterations can lead to an increased risk of developing eating disorders," the authors write.

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