Genetic Links Between Alcohol Abuse and Eating Disorders

A recent study found there may be a possible genetic link between two of the most common disorders found in the United States: alcohol abuse and eating disorders. A study from St. Louis’ Washington University School of Medicine looked into previously gathered data on nearly 6,000 adult Australian twins, discovering that genes found in individuals dependent on alcohol are also found in people suffering from eating disorders. The results were enough to highlight a possible relationship.

The results showed that at some point in their lives nearly 25 percent of the men and six percent of the women had been dependent on alcohol, with 11 percent of the men and 13 percent of the women who were alcohol dependent struggling with binge eating. Another 14 percent of those same women said they also engaged in purging or using laxatives as well as binge eating.

Melissa A. Munn-Chernoff, Ph.D., the study’s first author, noted that the genetic connections between the two disorders have been studied previously, but this was the first time men were included.

Results showed that even though eating disorders are thought to be more prevalent in females, males with the genetic factor were just as likely to develop habits such as binge eating, self-inducing vomited, starvation or laxative abuse, all commonly practiced by those with eating disorders.

Based on the symptoms and causes for the two diseases the possibility of a genetic relation between the two seems strong. Because both problems are manifested by the abusers’ loss of control it is nearly impossible for them to stop, even when they are aware of the dangerous consequences of their actions. Some of the same habits found in individuals with alcohol problems, such as impulsive behavior, depression and self-harm, are also very prevalent in those suffering from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

The purpose of the study was to find a link in order to alert caregivers treating people with alcohol dependence to also be cognizant of other possible problems related to eating disorders in patients. Because the two diseases are difficult enough to treat on their own, researchers believe that doctors need all the knowledge and tools possible to aid in treatment.

Posted on September 13th, 2014
Posted in Alcohol Abuse

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