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Alcoholism in the Family? Researchers Say You’re More Likely to Be Obese.

posted 07:16 PM EST, Tue March 15, 2011

Women with a family history of alcoholism are 49% more likely to be obese than women without a close relative alcoholic. Researchers suspect that people with a genetic predisposition for alcoholism are also more likely to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain with overeating.

Alcoholism in the family? Then watch out, because according to researchers at Washington University in St. Louis – you’re at increased risk to become an alcoholic yourself, and also at increased risk for obesity.

After wading through obesity and addiction survey data on 80 000 Americans who participated in national surveys in 1992-92 and 2001-2002, the researchers found that women with a family history of alcoholism are 49% more likely to be obese than women without such a history!

The study authors say that eating, particularly eating foods high in fat and sugar, can stimulate the same reward systems of the brain as drugs and alcohol, and that people with a predisposition towards alcoholism likely also have a predisposition towards getting ‘high’ on food.

Lead researcher, Richard Grucza explains, saying, “Much of what we eat nowadays contains more calories than the food we ate in the 1970s and 1980s, but it also contains the sorts of calories — particularly a combination of sugar, salt and fat — that appeal to what are commonly called the reward centers in the brain. Alcohol and drugs affect those same parts of the brain and our thinking was that because the same brain structures are being stimulated, overconsumption of those foods might be greater in people with a predisposition to addiction."

The full study results and a discussion of the implications of the findings can be read in the January edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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  • Obesity: Addiction to alcohol in the family may predispose you to overeating.
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