Abstract

Eating disorders are highly sexually differentiated disorders that exhibit a female predominance in risk. Most theories focus on psychosocial explanations to the exclusion of biological/genetic influences. The purpose of this descriptive review is to evaluate evidence from animal and human studies in support of gonadal hormone effects on sex differences in binge eating. Although research is in its nascent stages, findings suggest that increased prenatal testosterone exposure in males appears to protect against binge eating. Although pubertal testosterone may exert additional protective effects, the prenatal period is likely critical for the decreased risk observed in males. By contrast, studies indicate that, in females, it is the lack of prenatal testosterone coupled with the organizational effects of pubertal ovarian hormones that may lead to increased binge eating. Finally, twin data suggest that changes in genetic risk may underlie these hormone influences on sex differences across development.

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