Do Genetics Contribute to Binge Eating?

When addressing unhealthy habits and compulsions or mental health issues, there’s a tendency to want to know why someone might act the way they do. Especially when it comes to something like binge eating, it’s important to educate people on how both genes and the environment can play a role. After all, this isn’t just an issue of eating too much, too quickly—it’s a real condition that needs proper treatment and support.

What is Binge Eating?

Photo by larryjh1234

Binge eating describes a habit where a person continues to eat, even if they’re full or weren’t even hungry to begin with. Beyond overeating, binge eating feels uncontrollable and compulsive for that person. Feelings of guilt are often associated with this action, too. Approximately 3.5% of women and 2% of men in America struggle with binge eating.

The Case for Genetics

Photo by kyz

In recent years, studies have shown that there could be a genetic element of binge eating. One suggests that if an adolescent had a certain variation in the location of the FTO gene, they were between 20% and 30% more likely to binge eat. Another study suggests that the gene called the melanocortin 4 receptor, which was previously associated with obesity, creates a protein that triggers your appetite in a certain area of the brain. In other words, if your teen struggles with binge eating, genes could play a role.

Other Factors of Binge Eating

Photo by jrsnchzhrs

While increasing research shows that genetics can have a role to play, binge eating is extremely complicated and can be caused by environmental factors as well. For example, binge eating might be used as a coping mechanism to deal with negative feelings and mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, addiction or anxiety. Because of this, it’s important to consider a possible variety of causes and not simply rely on genetics.

How to Cope With Binge Eating

Photo by Chiara Cremaschi

If your teen struggles with a genetic binge eating disorder, it’s important to consider how they can cope address it in a healthy way. Medication is currently not available for obesity, but with ongoing research in this area, it could become available in the future. Secondly, the reality is that your teen needs to eat; they cannot simply cut food out of their life. Therefore, strive towards establishing a healthy relationship with food. Exercise, healthy eating and stress management are all helpful ways of managing food cravings. Of course, there’s always professional help available to you and your teen so that you can work towards a healthy lifestyle together.

Feature Image: Hannah Morgan