An examination of the overlap between genetic and environmental risk factors for intentional weight loss and overeating

Tracey D. Wade, Susan A. Treloar, Andrew C. Heath, Nicholas G. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: To further our understanding of how intentional weight loss (IWL) and overeating are related, we examined the shared genetic and environmental variance between lifetime IWL and overeating. Method: Interview data were available for 1,976 female twins (both members of 439 and 264 pairs of monozygotic and dizygotic twins, respectively), mean age = 40.61, SD = 4.72. We used lifetime diagnostic data for eating disorders obtained from a semistructured psychiatric telephone interview, examined in a bivariate twin analysis. Both lifetime behaviors were measured on a 3-point scale, where absence of IWL or overeating formed one anchor on the scale and lifetime anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) formed the opposite anchors, respectively. Results: In line with previous findings, a higher body mass index was signifi-cantly associated with the lifetime presence of IWL and/or overeating (odds ratio = 1.13, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.08-1.19). The best fitting twin model contained additive genetic and nonshared environmental influence influencing both IWL and overeating, with correlations between these influences of 0.61 (95% CI: 0.35-0.92) and 0.24 (95% CI: 0.07-0.42), respectively. Discussion: About 37% of genetic risk factors were considered to overlap between IWL and overeating, and with only 6% of overlap between environmental risk factors. Thus, considerable independence of risk factors was indicated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-497
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Environment
  • Genetic
  • Intentional weight loss
  • Overeating
  • Twin


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