Alcoholism and Binge Eating: Hand in Hand?

It's not much of a stretch.  Addiction is addiction, after all.  But a new study links alcoholism and eating disorders, according to

"Part of the risk for alcohol dependence is genetic, and the same is true for eating disorders. Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found it’s likely some of the same genes are involved in both," the Web site reports.

But what the study uncovered, which is a little more disturbing, is that people with alcohol dependence may be more genetically susceptible to certain types of eating disorders and vice versa.

I suppose it makes sense.

Researchers in Australia found that common genetic factors underlie alcoholism and certain eating-disorder symptoms, "such as binge eating and purging habits that include self-induced vomiting and the abuse of laxatives," notes.

“The symptoms can cut across multiple eating disorder diagnoses,” Melissa A. Munn-Chernoff, PhD, the study’s first author, told the Web site. “And several past studies have suggested that the particular behavior of binge eating, as well as purging and other practices that we call compensatory behaviors, may be closely associated with alcohol dependence."

The scientists studied identical twins, who have all the same genes. 

Here are the startling facts:

  • Nearly 25 percent of the men and 6 percent of women in the study had been alcohol dependent at some point
  • Almost 11 percent of these same men and 13 percent of the women had experienced problems with binge eating
  • About 14 percent of the women had engaged in purging or abuse of laxatives or diuretics

“It appears that some genes that influence alcohol dependence also influence binge eating in men and women, and compensatory behaviors in women," quotes Munn-Chernoff.

She suggests that rehab facilities be aware of this co-existence. “When you go to an eating disorder treatment center, they don’t often ask questions about alcoholism. And when you go for alcoholism treatment, they don’t generally ask questions about eating disorder symptoms,” she said. “If centers could be aware of that and perhaps treat both problems at the same time, that would be a big help.”


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