What is it about?

The long-lasting discussion on eating behaviors, food intake, and body weight is still ongoing and requires further research. Our aim was to find behavioral differences in genetically identical twin pairs who consisted of one individual with heavier weight and one with lighter weight. Identical twins are interesting to investigate because they have a lot in common, such as: a. Personal features: age, sex, and DNA b. Early environmental elements: family, neighborhood, and womb These factors play an important role in the development of eating behaviors and body weight. Astonishingly, we still found young adult twins (22–36 y) who vary a lot in body weight. Their variation in body weight must be a result of things they do NOT have in common. One explanation could be their eating behavior. Heavier and lighter twins both reported a healthy intake of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. However, through questions on behavioral patterns, the heavier twins reported more often that they have a habit of overeating than the lighter twins. They appeared more sensitive to triggers for overeating like the smell, taste, and sight of food. Additionally, compared to the lighter twins, the heavier twins were rather unhappy with the way their body looks. In conclusion, overeating behaviors and body dissatisfaction were more often and more severely present in the heavier twins, regardless of personal features and early environmental elements.

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Why is it important?

Age, sex, DNA, and early environmental factors were not responsible for the difference in overeating behaviors and BMI found between lighter and heavier co-twins. This suggests the possibility for behavior-changing interventions to attenuate overeating urges for the benefit of their body weight. Instead of food diaries, questions on habitual eating patterns might improve identification of unhealthy weight and related behaviors. Additionally, the difference in overeating likely originated from other life experiences and exposures than one’s childhood home and neighborhood environment. This supports the importance of a health-enhancing environment during adulthood.

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This page is a summary of: Eating Behaviors in Healthy Young Adult Twin Pairs Discordant for Body Mass Index, Twin Research and Human Genetics, August 2019, Cambridge University Press,
DOI: 10.1017/thg.2019.43.
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