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Monday, February 6, 2012

Bulimic Behaviors and Alcohol Use: Shared Genetic Influences

Bulimic behaviors are frequently associated with alcohol use disorders. However, extant family and twin study findings have been inconsistent with regard to whether these behaviors share etiologic influences.

A sample of 292 young adult, female twins was used to examine genetic and environmental factors underlying the association between binge eating and compensatory behaviors (e.g., vomiting) and alcohol use. Binge eating and compensatory behaviors were assessed using the Minnesota Eating Behavior Survey. Alcohol use was measured using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test.

Univariate models indicated that the heritability of binge eating, compensatory behaviors, and alcohol use was 41, 28, and 78%, respectively, with the remaining variance due to nonshared environmental effects.

Bivariate models indicated that there was a moderate-to-large degree of overlap (genetic correlation = 0.31–0.61) in additive genetic factors between alcohol use and binge eating and compensatory behaviors, and no overlap in environmental effects.

Findings suggest that these phenotypes co-aggregate in families and that similar genes or heritable traits may be contributing to their co-occurrence.

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