OBJECTIVE: We explored both within-method and between-method rigor and reproducibility in the field of eating disorders genetics.
METHOD: We present critical evaluation and commentary on component methods of genetic research (family studies, twin studies, molecular genetic studies) and discuss both successful and unsuccessful efforts in the field.
RESULTS: Eating disorders genetics has had a number of robust results that converge across component methodologies. Familial aggregation of eating disorders, twin-based heritability estimates of eating disorders, and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) all point toward a substantial role for genetics in eating disorders etiology and support the premise that genes do not act alone. Candidate gene and linkage studies have been less informative historically.
DISCUSSION: The eating disorders field has entered the GWAS era with studies of anorexia nervosa. Continued growth of sample sizes is essential for rigorous discovery of actionable variation. Molecular genetic studies of bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and other eating disorders are virtually nonexistent and lag seriously behind other major psychiatric disorders. Expanded efforts are necessary to reveal the fundamental biology of eating disorders, inform clinical practice, and deliver new therapeutic targets.