Both twin and family studies have revealed the involvement of genetic factors in disorders that affect the regulation of body weight, such as obesity and anorexia nervosa. However, pinpointing the genes that contribute to these human disorders has not yet been very successful. In contrast, genetic studies in animals have been basic for the identification of many genes involved in the regulation of various physiological processes of energy metabolism. We thus plan to review here ways in which findings from animal studies and what is known about behavioural diversity in the human population with eating disorders can be combined. This would probably optimise phenotype-based candidate gene analysis in humans.