Eating Disorders and Epigenetics

  • Lea ThalerEmail author
  • Howard Steiger
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 978)


Eating disorders (EDs) are characterized by intense preoccupation with shape and weight and maladaptive eating practices. The complex of symptoms that characterize EDs often arise through the activation of latent genetic potentials by environmental exposures, and epigenetic mechanisms are believed to link environmental exposures to gene expression. This chapter provides an overview of genetic factors acting in the etiology of EDs. It then provides a background to the hypothesis that epigenetic mechanisms link stresses such as obstetric complications and childhood abuse as well as effects of malnutrition to eating disorders (EDs). The chapter then summarizes the emerging body of literature on epigenetics and EDs—mainly studies on DNA methylation in samples of anorexia and bulimia. The available evidence base suggests that an epigenetically informed perspective contributes in valuable ways to the understanding of why people develop EDs.


Eating disorders Anorexia Bulimia Binge eating Epigenetics Methylation 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eating Disorders Continuum, Douglas InstituteMontreal West Island Integrated University Health and Social Services CentreVerdunCanada
  2. 2.Psychiatry DepartmentMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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