Alcoholism and eating disorders have both been found to have a genetic component for those at risk. Now, a new study has shown that these diseases may actually be linked to each other genetically.
The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, shows that alcoholics are “more genetically susceptible” to some eating disorders, and that the opposite is true as well. Researchers at Washington University looked at around 6,000 twins, using statistics to chart out the odds for gene traits. The traits for identical and fraternal twins were then compared. The study found that alcoholism and behavior such as binging and purging were genetically related.
“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,” said Melissa Munn-Chernoff, lead author of the study and a researcher at Washington University. “We found that some of the genes that influence alcohol dependence also influence binge eating in men and women.”
The study surveyed the twins about their alcohol use and eating practices. It found that 25% of the men and 6% of the women had been or were alcohol dependent. 11% of the men and 13% of the women had practiced binge eating, while 14% of the women had also practiced purging. Though a statistically significant link between alcohol dependence and disordered eating behaviors was found for both genders, women were found to have a higher correlation.
“Those numbers suggest that there are shared genetic risk factors for these behaviors, such as purging and fasting,” said Munn-Chernoff. “It appears that some genes that influence alcohol dependence also influence binge eating in men and women, and compensatory behaviors in women.”