PRLog - Jan. 18, 2011 - BOSTON -- It seems that the increased risk of obesity among people with a family history of alcoholism happens because some people substitute one addiction for another. When a sibling or a parent suffers from alcoholism, another family member may avoid alcohol but eat high-calorie foods that stimulate the same reward centers in the brain that react to alcohol. And this, in turn, can cause some serious weight gain.
History of Alcoholism, Weight Gain Go Hand in Hand
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovered this link when they analyzed data from two large U.S. alcoholism surveys conducted in 1991-1992 and 2001-2002. According to the survey results, women with a family history of alcoholism were 49% more likely to be obese than other women (!). Men with a family history of alcoholism were also more likely to be obese, but this association was not as strong in men as in women.
The research team also found during their analysis that the link between a family history of alcoholism and obesity has grown stronger over time. They speculate that this is likely due to the increasing availability of foods that interact with the same brain areas as alcohol. These “addictive foods” usually contain a combination of sugar, salt and fat. Overconsumption of these foods is often greater in people with a predisposition to addiction.
In addiction research, alcohol addiction is often linked with a tendency towards drug addiction. This new study, however, is the first to link alcoholism with a predisposition for addictive foods. And this is a fairly new phenomenon: it is only in the past 10 years that this link has really started to emerge, coinciding with a diet full of fast foods high in sugar, salt and fat.
If you come from a background where alcoholism was (or is still) present, just be aware that certain foods may replace the role of alcohol for you. Don’t let foods high in sugar, salt and fat become a replacement addiction. Keep your diet healthy and balanced, full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein. By avoiding addictive foods that stimulate the reward centers in your brain, you can stave off unwanted weight gain. And you’ll likely feel a lot more emotionally grounded, too.
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