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Genetic epidemiology of eating disorders

Bulik, Cynthia M.; Kleiman, Susan C.; Yilmaz, Zeynep

doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000275
EATING DISORDERS: Edeted by Hans W. Hoek

Purpose of review We capture recent findings in the field of genetic epidemiology of eating disorders. As analytic techniques evolve for twin, population, and molecular genetic studies, new findings emerge at an accelerated pace. We present the current status of knowledge regarding the role of genetic and environmental factors that influence risk for eating disorders.

Recent findings We focus on novel findings from twin studies, population studies using genetically informative designs, and molecular genetic studies. Over the past 2 years, research in this area has yielded insights into: comorbidity with other psychiatric and medical disorders and with metabolic traits; developmental factors associated with the emergence of eating disorders; and the molecular genetics of anorexia nervosa.

Summary Insights from genetic epidemiology provide an important explanatory model for patients with eating disorders, family members, and clinicians. Understanding core biological determinants that explain the severity and persistence of the illnesses, their frequent co-occurrence with other conditions, and their familial patterns raises awareness and increases compassion for individuals living with these disorders. Large-scale genomic studies are currently underway. Ultimately, this domain of research may pave the way to greater understanding of the underlying neurobiology and inform the development of novel and effective interventions.

aUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

bKarolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

cUniversity College Cork, Cork, Ireland

Correspondence to Dr Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, CB #7160, 101 Manning Drive, UNC Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA. Tel: +1 984 974 3233; e-mail:

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