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Is the Relationship Between Binge Eating Episodes and Personality Attributable to Genetic Factors?

  • Rachel Koren (a1), Melissa A. Munn-Chernoff (a2) (a3), Alexis E. Duncan (a2) (a3) (a4), Kathleen K. Bucholz (a2) (a3), Pamela A. F. Madden (a2) (a3), Andrew C. Heath (a2) (a3) and Arpana Agrawal (a2) (a3)...

Abstract

Aspects of disordered eating and personality traits, such as neuroticism, are correlated and individually heritable. We examined the phenotypic correlation between binge eating episodes and indices of personality (neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and control/impulsivity). For correlations ≥|0.20|, we estimated the extent to which genetic and environmental factors contributed to this correlation. Participants included 3,446 European American same-sex female twins from the Missouri Adolescent Female Twin Study (median age = 22 years). Binge eating episode was assessed via interview questions. Personality traits were assessed by self-report questionnaires. There was a significant moderate phenotypic correlation between binge eating episode and neuroticism (r = 0.33) as well as conscientiousness (r = -0.21), while other correlations were significant but smaller (r ranging from -0.14 to 0.14). Individual differences in binge eating episodes, neuroticism, and conscientiousness were attributed to additive genetic influences (38% [95% CI: 21–53%], 45% [95% CI: 38–52%], and 44% [95% CI: 0.33–0.55%] respectively), with the remaining variance attributed to individual-specific environmental influences. Covariance was attributable to genetic (neuroticism r g = 0.37; conscientiousness r g = -0.22) and individual-specific environmental (neuroticism r e = 0.28; conscientiousness r e = -0.19) influences. Personality traits may be an early indicator of genetic vulnerability to a variety of pathological behaviors, including binge eating episode. Furthermore, prior research documenting phenotypic correlations between eating disorder diagnoses and personality may have stemmed from etiological overlap between these personality traits and aspects of disordered eating, such as binge eating episode.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

address for correspondence: Arpana Agrawal PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 S. Euclid, CB 8134, Saint Louis, MO 63110. E-mail: arpana@wustl.edu

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