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Eating Disorders May Run in Families

Pattern Seen in Studies of Anorexia, Binge Eating

Checking the Family Tree

"I always ask people, 'Has anyone in your family ever had funny eating habits?' or 'Has anybody in your family ever been really underweight or really overweight?' and then the stories start coming out," Bulik says.

She recalls talking to a black woman whose mother used to vomit after every dinner. The woman said her mother, who was born in the South in the 1940s, always blamed "greasy food" for her vomiting but was very thin and nagged her kids about their weight.

"I said, 'You know, that's really interesting, because I'll bet back then, nobody was diagnosing bulimia nervosa,'" Bulik says. Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which people deliberately throw up their food.

"I think the more we broaden our questions, the more we can capture some of these folks in families who really did have problems but never received a diagnosis," Bulik says.

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