Binge Eating: There’s a Gene for That

by Sandy Todd Webster on Jan 18, 2017

Food for Thought

The trove of discovery from drilling into the human genome seems to be boundless. Who knew that we could figure out the actual scientific reason why humans habitually overeat?

Researchers have identified a protein-coding gene (CYFIP2) associated with binge eating—a discovery, they say, that could potentially lead to treatments targeted to normalize eating behaviors. Using gene mapping and gene validation, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine identified cytoplasmic FMR1-interacting protein 2 (CYFIP2) as a major genetic risk factor for binge eating. In addition, they observed that decreased myelination (the process of coating the axon of each neuron with a fatty coating called myelin, which protects the neuron and helps it conduct signals more efficiently) could be a neuropathological consequence of binge eating.

The study describes a network of downregulated genes—involved in myelination—that are associated with binge eating. The research is available online in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Eating disorders are among the most lethal of neuropsychiatric disorders, say the authors. Compulsive binge eating is characterized by episodes of eating large quantities of food, often very quickly and to the point of discomfort. Binge eaters typically experience a loss of control during the binge, as well as shame, distress or guilt afterward.

“Because we found changes in the brain as a consequence of binge eating that were predictive of decreased myelination, therapeutically promoting remyelination may represent a novel treatment avenue for promoting recovery from negative feeding behaviors in eating disorders,” explained corresponding author Camron Bryant, PhD, assistant professor in the department of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics & psychiatry at BUSM.

Bryant and his colleagues believe these findings may lead to new therapeutic treatments that could ultimately save lives and restore healthy eating behaviors in people with compulsive overeating, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and even substance use disorders.

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.