Having a genetic risk for alcohol dependence may also put people at higher risk for certain eating disorders, and vice versa.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered that some of the genes that influence alcohol dependence also influence certain eating disorders. Furthermore, their analysis suggests that genes may explain 38 to 53 percent of the risk of developing these disorders.
Alcohol abuse and eating disorders go hand-in-hand
“In clinical practice, it’s been observed that individuals with eating disorders also have high rates of alcohol abuse and dependence,” said Dr. Melissa Munn-Chernoff, a postdoctoral research scholar in psychiatry.
Twins provided excellent material for comparisons
The study focused on 6,000 adult twins. Researchers used statistical tools to find the odds of certain traits coming from the same genes, based on the fact that 100 percent of genes are the same in identical twins, and about 50 percent are the same in fraternal twins.
“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,” explained Munn-Chernoff. “We found that some of the genes that influence alcohol dependence also influence binge eating in men and women.”
Genes figure in developing either of the disorders
The results showed that nearly 25 percent of the men and 6 percent of the women had been or were alcohol dependent. About 11 percent of men and 13 percent of women had had a problem with binge eating. It seems that some of the genes linked to alcohol dependence were also linked to binge eating and compensatory behaviors like purging, use of laxatives and diuretics. Munn-Chernoff said she would like to take blood and saliva samples in future tests to see if they can pinpoint the actual genes.
“When you go to an eating disorder treatment center, they don’t often ask questions about alcoholism,” Munn-Chernoff noted. “And when you go for alcoholism treatment, they don’t generally as questions about eating disorder symptoms.”
Health professionals need to be more aware of the relationship between the two disorders and look for opportunities to treat them.
Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs