Wednesday, December 17, 2008

eating disorders, addictive behavior, and comorbidity: a genetic outlook

While psychological, sociological, and feminist frameworks have understood the emergence of eating disorders through cultural, familial, and patriarchal models, the influence of genetics if often undermined or ignored altogether.

Ghrelin, a peptide in the stomach, has been recently found to play a role in addictive behaviors. Jorgen Engel, professor of pharmacology at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg explains:
Previous research had shown that ghrelin levels in blood plasma are altered in addictive behaviours such as alcohol dependence and compulsive overeating…It may be that common mechanisms in the brain underlie different forms of addictive behaviours, including compulsive overeating, pathological gambling and drug dependence," he said. "We hypothesized that the ghrelin system may be an important player in the brain-reward systems and, more specifically, wanted to investigate if the ghrelin system is involved in alcohol dependence in humans.
Additionally, variations of ghrelin make individuals more or less susceptible to experiencing multiple addictive behaviors, such as alcoholism and over-eating—underscoring the genetic basis of such disorders.

Source: "Alcoholism; Peptide ghrelin may be involved in both alcohol dependence and overeating." NewsRx Health & Science (Oct. 2008): 21.

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