The UQ Diamantina Institute’s Professor David Evans and a University College London Institute of Child Health team have analysed data from 6000 adolescents aged 14 and 16 and found that genetic variations associated with obesity risk could also predict binge-eating.
Professor Evans said finding the gene variation could lead to a better understanding of why young people developed binge-eating tendencies.
“In the future it may also help us create strategies for identifying at-risk teenagers before they get to the stage where they are overweight or obese and face the many health problems associated with these issues,” he said.
“About 10 per cent of adults and teenagers binge-eat, which we define as excessive over eating with a lack of control over what they are eating.
“While it’s known that a combination of genetic and environmental factors lead to eating disorders, until now there has been limited research into how specific genes increase the likelihood of binge-eating behaviours in adolescence that can lead to obesity.”
The researchers found that if a young person had a particular variation in the location of the FTO gene, they were between 20 per cent and 30 per cent more likely to binge-eat.
Professor Evans said the pattern was particularly evident in girls, who were 30 per cent more likely to binge eat if they had the variation.
“It’s still early days in the research but we’re getting a better understanding of how these behaviours come about.
“It’s very complex because the tendency to binge is a behaviour influenced by many different genetic and environmental factors.”
The research is published in the Obesity research journal.