9 November 2022
Eating Disorders and their Connection to Genetics: Rhetorical Analysis of Reddy’s
“A New Genetic Explanation for Anorexia”
Small portions of food, weighing scales, excessive exercise, and harmful body image are all side effects of eating disorders. But why do some resort to these habits and forms of self-destruction while others lead their lives with healthier coping mechanisms? In Sumathi Reddy’s article “A New Genetic Explanation for Anorexia,” published in The Wall Street Journal in 2019, she argues that eating disorders are primarily genetic disorders that do not necessarily stem from harmful environments or media. Reddy successfully argues her claim using a moderate mixture of facts, credible sources, and emotional anecdotes.
Reddy’s article starts quickly, saying scientific studies started being conducted because researchers wanted to test how much of anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder, was genetic. Reddy continues to dive into a study published by Nature Genetics and claims it is the largest genome-wide association study of the disease. After introducing this study, Reddy backtracks and gives information on the disease, statistics of who it affects, and the deadly nature of it. She then comes back to the study giving results. The study finds that much of the disorder is a genetic disease; possibly up to 20% of the disease is completely genetic. Reddy finishes the article by using anecdotes from different patients and giving their viewpoints on the study; they are emotional and speak of the relief they feel from the study. Many believe that eating disorders come from young individuals looking up to models and influencers. These people try to achieve beautiful, unrealistic images shown to them. However, Reddy shows that science is starting to show another side to disordered eating.
Reddy uses facts, statistics, and quotes that are accurate and aid her stance in a professional manner. In her second paragraph, Reddy introduces an experiment, the organization that the experiment came from, and specific results that were concluded, saying, “The study, published July 15 in the journal Nature Genetics, found eight genetic regions linked to anorexia.” This branch of information shows her knowledge on the topic and gives logical persuasion for her stance. Reddy continues to use percentages, “Anorexia affects up to 4% of women,” and statistics, “17,000 patients with the disease and compared them with 55,525 controls from 17 countries,” in her article, to continuously prove her point. These examples are only a small handful of the percentages and statistics Reddy uses in her article. She also uses them consistently to add specific detail and to build credibility. Reddy also uses quotes in her article from experts in the field to create a fact that has a credible and personal touch to it. These quotes come from doctors and researchers that give more logistical information that add to Reddy’s point.
Reddy doesn’t stop at just using statistics and logical reasoning to persuade the reader, she continues to build credibility by using credible personas throughout the article. Reddy uses many doctors and professionals to back up facts and statistics, such as, “Cynthia Bulik, founding director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders in Chapel Hill, N.C., who led the study,” and “Tom Hildebrandt, chief of the Center of Excellence in Eating and Weight Disorders at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.” Holding these individuals in her article creates a sense of professionalism and knowledge in her article. However, Reddy doesn’t stop at naming direct people but continues to add credibility by using terms like “researchers” in her article. This continues the sense of professionalism and credibility throughout the article, that not only she takes this stance, but important and educated people, who are experts in the topic, also believe in it.
At the end of her article, Reddy uses many emotional anecdotes and statements from victims of eating disorders. These victims are named, and a quick back story is given to create an attachment for the audience. For example, the main victim mentioned in the article is a woman named June Alexander:
June Alexander, a 68-year-old writer in Melbourne, Australia, was among the nearly 17,000 people who contributed a blood sample for the study. Ms. Alexander was diagnosed with anorexia in her 30s after struggling with the disease starting at age 11. She says she wasn't successfully treated until she was 55. ‘That was when I was able to eat three meals every day and not feel guilty,’ she says. The study's findings, she says, were a "big relief." ‘This illness makes you feel very ashamed,’ Ms. Alexander says. ‘This study is saying this is definitely an illness. I'm not flawed. It's the illness that makes me feel and seem that way.’ (Reddy)
Using Alexander's story connects the audience in a humanistic way. It creates a connection and a new perspective through the article. Breaking away from statistics and facts, the use of Alexander in Reddy’s paper shows the audience how these studies are affecting and shocking victims. Seeing the relief that victims find in this study is persuasive as well. Knowing that victims will find solace brings a point of empathy for the audience.
Using logical facts and statistics, creating credible sources through named personas, and using stories of victims that face their disordered eating daily, it is evident Reddy successfully argues that Anorexia is primarily a genetic disorder. This article used significant evidence that covers logos, ethos, and pathos. It is written well and makes it obvious why Reddy is an author for a highly reviewed paper. This article is truly informative and may find great use in basic-level research of this study.
Reddy, Sumathi. "A New Genetic Explanation for Anorexia." Wall Street Journal, 30 July 2019. ProQuest; SIRS Issues Researcher, explore.proquest.com/sirsissuesresearcher /document/2350549895?accountid=66412.