The possible influence of impulsivity and dietary restraint on associations between serotonin genes and binge eating.


Although serotonin (5-HT) genes are thought to be involved in the etiology of bulimia nervosa and binge eating, findings from molecular genetic studies are inconclusive. This may be due to limitations of past research, such as a failure to consider the influence of quantitative traits and gene–environment interactions. The current study investigated these issues by examining whether quantitative traits (i.e., impulsivity) and environmental exposure factors (i.e., dietary restraint) moderate 5-HT gene/binge eating associations in a sample of young women (N = 344). Binge eating was assessed using the Minnesota Eating Behavior Survey and the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire (DEBQ). Impulsivity was assessed with the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-Version 11. Dietary restraint was measured with a factor score derived from common restraint scales. Saliva samples were genotyped for the 5-HT2a receptor T102C polymorphism and 5-HT transporter promoter polymorphism. As expected, impulsivity and dietary restraint were associated with binge eating. Although the T allele of the 5-HT2a receptor gene and the s allele of the 5-HTT gene were associated with higher levels of impulsivity, there were no main effects of 5-HT genotypes on any binge eating measure, and interactions between genotypes, impulsivity, and dietary restraint were non-significant. In conclusion, we found no evidence to suggest that dietary restraint or impulsivity moderate associations between binge eating and these 5-HT genes. Future research should continue to explore interaction effects by examining larger samples, assessing dietary intake directly, and investigating other genes, traits, and environmental factors that may be related to binge eating and bulimia nervosa.


Sarah E. Racine
Kristen M. Culbert
Christine L Larson
Kelly L. Klump