Study Finds Genetic Link Between Alcohol Abuse, Eating Disorders

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A local study finds a genetic connection between alcohol problems and eating disorders.

Washington University researcher Dr. Melissa Munn-Chernoff found there are some shared genetic risk factors for those who have a dependence on alcohol and those with eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.

“For me, the most important message that I would want to get out is alcohol dependence and these particular eating disorder symptoms often co-occur and if someone is at risk that they may also be at risk for eating disorder symptoms and vice-versa,” Munn-Chernoff explains.

The study was conducted on nearly 6,000 adult twins in Australia. Since identical twins share 100 percent of their genetic makeup and fraternal twins about half, researchers were able to determine the odds that certain traits are a result of genetic makeup.

The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. It suggests that when a patient seeks treatment for either alcohol problems or for an eating disorder, it might be a good idea for doctors and counselors to ask about the other problem as well.

“When you go to an eating disorder treatment center, they don’t ask questions about alcoholism and when you go to alcoholism treatment, they don’t ask questions about eating disorder symptoms,” Munn-CHernoff says. “If there was a treatment center that could treat both problems at the same time, that may help.”

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