The plasticity of development: how knowledge of epigenetics may advance understanding of eating disorders

Int J Eat Disord. 2014 Nov;47(7):696-704. doi: 10.1002/eat.22322. Epub 2014 Jun 27.


Objective: To depict the processes through which animals and human beings engage their environment in continuously evolving states of conflict and cooperation.

Method: Descriptive literature review.

Results: Life history outcomes are more relative than they are absolute. Genetic variations play a crucial role, but heavily influencing behavioral outcomes, psychopathology included, are external cues that epigenetically remodel DNA along experience-dependent signaling pathways. The result is phenotypes that either optimize adjustment, or constrain it.

Discussion: Knowledge of epigenetic mechanisms may help shed new light on the origin of maturational phenotypes underlying eating disorders and why adjusting treatments to these realities warrants our attention.

Keywords: development; environment; epigenetics; genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders / complications
  • Birth Weight
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Germ Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology
  • Paternal Exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / genetics
  • Stress, Psychological / complications