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J Abnorm Psychol. 2018 Jul;127(5):458-470. doi: 10.1037/abn0000352. Epub 2018 Jun 21.

Estrogen moderates genetic influences on binge eating during puberty: Disruption of normative processes?

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Department of Psychology.


Puberty is a critical period for changes in genetic effects for binge eating in girls. Previous twin studies show increases in genetic influences on binge eating from prepuberty (∼0%) to midpuberty and beyond (∼50%). However, little is known about the factors that drive these shifts in genetic effects. A small pilot study showed that pubertal activation of estrogen may contribute to increases in genetic influences, possibly via hormonally induced changes in gene expression. However, large-scale studies investigating hormone effects on genetic risk are lacking. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of estrogen on genetic influences for binge eating in 964 female twins (ages 8-16 years) from the Michigan State University Twin Registry. Binge eating was assessed with the Minnesota Eating Behaviors Survey, whereas afternoon saliva samples were assayed for estradiol levels using standard enzyme immunoassays. Twin moderation models showed substantial differences in genetic influences on binge eating across estradiol levels. Stronger genetic effects were observed at lower (rather than higher) estradiol levels, even when controlling for the effects of age, body mass index, the physical changes of puberty, and the onset of menses. Overall, findings suggest that comparatively lower levels of estradiol during this critical period may disrupt normative developmental processes and enhance genetic influences on binge eating. (PsycINFO Database Record.

[Available on 2019-07-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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