Research must be stepped up to find a cure for the misery of anorexia, a Hampshire MP has urged.

Conservative Caroline Nokes hailed the work of Charlotte’s Helix, an international project to find a link between the DNA of anorexia nervosa sufferers.

The project is attempting to gather the DNA of 1,000 current and former sufferers in the UK – and 25,000 worldwide – with the aim of ‘cracking the code’.

It visited Westminster, where DNA was taken from Conservative MP Brooks Newmark, among other former sufferers.

Ms Nokes, the Romsey and Southampton North MP, asked prime minister David Cameron to commend the work of Charlotte’s Helix.

In reply, the prime minister praised Ms Nokes – who heads a parliamentary committee which recently published a report into the links between poor body image and eating disorders – for raising the issue The Charlotte’s Helix campaign was set-up in memory of Charlotte Bevan, an eating disorder activist who died in January.

Ms Nokes added: “1.6m people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder. For them it is a struggle they face three times a day, for the whole of their life.

“There is no ‘simple cure’ for these diseases, which increasingly affect men and older people. What is needed is more research to understand their causes, and better, earlier intervention.”