Association of BDNF with anorexia, bulimia and age of onset of weight loss in six European populations

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Several genes with an essential role in the regulation of eating behavior and body weight are considered candidates involved in the etiology of eating disorders (ED), but no relevant susceptibility genes with a major effect on anorexia nervosa (AN) or bulimia nervosa (BN) have been identified. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been implicated in the regulation of food intake and body weight in rodents. We previously reported a strong association of the Met66 allele of the Val66Met BDNF variant with restricting AN (ANR) and low minimum body mass index in Spanish patients. Another single nucleotide polymorphism located in the promoter region of the BDNF gene (−270C>T) showed lack of association with any ED phenotype. In order to replicate these findings in a larger sample, we performed a case–control study in 1142 Caucasian patients with ED consecutively recruited in six different centers from five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK) participating in the ‘Factors in Healthy Eating’ project. We have found that the Met66 variant is strongly associated to all ED subtypes (AN, ANR, binge-eating/purging AN and BN), and that the −270C BDNF variant has an effect on BN and late age at onset of weight loss. These are the first two variants associated with the pathophysiology of ED in different populations and support a role for BDNF in the susceptibility to aberrant eating behaviors.

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