Eating disorders and alcoholism: Is there a genetic link?

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Alcoholics may be more genetically vulnerable to certain types of eating disorders, and vice-versa, according to a recent study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study involved almost 6,000 adult twins.  Researchers found that common genetic factors seemed to underlie both alcoholism and certain eating disorder symptoms, like binge eating and purging habits (such as self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse).  Genes appeared to explain 38 percent to 53 percent of the risk of developing those disorders.

"We need to be aware that these problems can occur together, in both men and women.  So, when health providers see someone with a drinking problem, they may want to ask about bingeing and purging symptoms, or vice-versa, something that, right now, is not routinely done,” lead researcher Melissa Munn-Chernoff, PhD, was quoted as saying.

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