Binge eating can be blamed on a defective gene
Binge eating can be traced to a gene, researchers say, in a sharp departure from the long-accepted idea that it is due to a psychological disturbance.
The new analysis is one of two reports in the New England Journal of Medicine, published today, on severe obesity and genetic defects in the appetite-regulating gene, the mela-nocortin-4 receptor (MC4R), which makes a protein involved in appetite function in the brain.
"This should help to create some compassion," said John Kral, an obesity expert at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Centre, Brooklyn, and a member of the team that conducted the study.
"I think it will help lead to the legitimacy of this disease as having a genetic background in at least a percentage of the population," Dr Kral said. He and colleagues in Switzerland and Germany estimate the defect is probably the villain in many severely obese binge eaters.
Believed to be the most common eating disorder, bingeing affects about 4 million people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. And although binge eaters are often severely overweight, some are not, doctors say. The study examined 469 severely obese white adults and found bingeing was most common in the 5 per cent bearing the genetic mistake.
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