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Twin Res Hum Genet. 2005 Oct;8(5):467-82.

Eating disorders: from twin studies to candidate genes and beyond.

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Centrum Eetstoornissen Ursula, National Centre for Eating Disorders, Leidschendam, the Netherlands.


Substantial effort has been put into the exploration of the biological background of eating disorders, through family, twin and molecular genetic studies. Family studies have shown that anorexia (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) are strongly familial, and that familial etiologic factors appear to be shared by both disorders. Twin studies often focus on broader phenotypes or subthreshold eating disorders. These studies consistently yielded moderate to substantial heritabilities. In addition, there has been a proliferation of molecular genetic studies that focused on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) AN and BN. Seven linkage regions have been identified in genome-wide screens. Many genetic association studies have been performed, but no consistent association between a candidate gene and AN or BN has been reported. Larger genetic association studies and collaborations are needed to examine the involvement of several candidate genes and biological pathways in eating disorders. In addition, twin studies should be designed to assist the molecular work by further exploring genetic determinants of endophenotypes, evaluating the magnitude of contribution to liability of measured genotypes as well as environmental risk factors related to eating disorders. In this manner twin and molecular studies can move the field forward in a mutually informative way.

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