Could eating disorders and alcoholism share a common link? A new study suggests that people who suffer from alcohol dependency may also be more genetically prone to have an eating disorder and vice versa.
A team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine collected data from approximately 6,000 adult identical and fraternal twins in Australia who reported on their alcohol use and binge eating habits in addition to other information about their overall health. By using identical and fraternal twins, noted the researchers, they were able to figure out which traits were influenced by heredity or environmental factors.
The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, revealed that 25 percent of men and 6 percent of women had at some point suffered from alcohol dependency, while 11 percent of men and 13 percent of women had experienced binge eating problems.
"Those numbers suggest that there are shared genetic risk factors for these behaviors, such as purging and fasting," said Dr. Melissa Munn-Chernoff, the study's lead author, in a press release. "It appears that some genes that influence alcohol dependence also influence binge eating in men and women, and compensatory behaviors in women."
Although the results of prior studies have indicated that substance abuse and eating disorders may be linked, the Washington University analysis is the first to include men. Munn-Chernoff said in the press release that she hoped that doctors and mental health professional can provide better treatment for individuals battling alcoholism and eating disorders.