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Eating Disorders, Heredity and Environmental Activation: Getting Epigenetic Concepts into Practice

by 1,2,3,*,† and 3,4,5,*,†
1
Eating Disorders Continuum, Douglas University Institute, Montreal, Quebec H4H 1R3, Canada
2
Douglas Institute Research Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H4H 1R3, Canada
3
Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1A1, Canada
4
Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec H4B 1R6, Canada
5
Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec H3T 1C5, Canada
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Authorship for this paper is shared equally.
J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9(5), 1332; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9051332
Received: 11 March 2020 / Revised: 21 April 2020 / Accepted: 30 April 2020 / Published: 3 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Eating Disorders)
Epigenetic mechanisms are believed to link environmental exposures to alterations in gene expression, and in so doing, to provide a physical substrate for the activation of hereditary potentials by life experiences. In keeping with this idea, accumulating data suggest that epigenetic processes are implicated in eating-disorder (ED) etiology. This paper reviews literature on putative links between epigenetic factors and EDs, and examines ways in which epigenetic programming of gene expression could account for gene-environment interactions acting in the EDs. The paper also presents evidence suggesting that epigenetic processes link malnutrition and life stresses (gestational, perinatal, childhood, and adult) to risk of ED development. Drawing from empirical evidence and clinical experience, we propose that an epigenetically informed understanding of ED etiology can benefit patients, caregivers, and clinicians alike, in the sense that the perspective can reduce judgmental or blameful attitudes on the part of clinicians and caregivers, and increase self-acceptance and optimism about recovery on the part of those affected. View Full-Text
Keywords: epigenetics; anorexia nervosa; bulimia nervosa; eating disorders; DNA methylation; gene-environment interactions epigenetics; anorexia nervosa; bulimia nervosa; eating disorders; DNA methylation; gene-environment interactions
MDPI and ACS Style

Steiger, H.; Booij, L. Eating Disorders, Heredity and Environmental Activation: Getting Epigenetic Concepts into Practice. J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9, 1332. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9051332

AMA Style

Steiger H, Booij L. Eating Disorders, Heredity and Environmental Activation: Getting Epigenetic Concepts into Practice. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2020; 9(5):1332. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9051332

Chicago/Turabian Style

Steiger, Howard, and Linda Booij. 2020. "Eating Disorders, Heredity and Environmental Activation: Getting Epigenetic Concepts into Practice" Journal of Clinical Medicine 9, no. 5: 1332. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9051332

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