Similar genes behind alcohol abuse, eating disorders

Last Updated: Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 13:27

Washington: Researchers have found that some of the same genes are likely involved in alcohol dependence and eating disorders.

The researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report that people with alcohol dependence may be more genetically susceptible to certain types of eating disorders and vice versa.

"In clinical practice, it`s been observed that individuals with eating disorders also have high rates of alcohol abuse and dependence," Melissa A. Munn-Chernoff, PhD, the study`s first author said.

"Other studies have focused on the genetic connections between alcohol dependence and eating disorders, but all of those studies looked only at women. Ours was the first to include men as well," she said.

According to Munn-Chernoff, a postdoctoral research scholar in psychiatry, that`s important because although eating disorders tend to be thought of as a female problem, they affect men, too.

Studying data gathered from nearly 6,000 adult twins in Australia, Munn-Chernoff and her colleagues found that common genetic factors underlie alcoholism and certain eating-disorder symptoms, such as binge eating and purging habits that include self-induced vomiting and the abuse of laxatives.

By studying twins, the researchers used statistical methods to determine the odds that certain traits result from the same genes. Those statistical insights are based on the fact that identical twins share 100 percent of their genetic makeup while fraternal twins share about half.

"By comparing the findings in identical and fraternal twins, we can develop estimates of how much of the difference in particular traits is due to genes or environment," Munn-Chernoff said.

"We found that some of the genes that influence alcohol dependence also influence binge eating in men and women," she added.

The study is published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.


First Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 13:27

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