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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Link Between Alcoholism and Obesity

There may be a connection between a family history of alcohol addiction and obesity according to a new study conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Areas in the brain that are affected by overeating are the same areas that are affected by drug use. Alcohol by itself is very unhealthy physically as well as mentally, add salty greasy foods into the equation and you have a recipe for obesity.

The research team was led by assistant professor of psychiatry, Dr. Richard A. Grucza, which used data from two population sample studies: 1) National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (1991-1992) and 2) the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (2001-2002). A combined total of 78,937 participants responded to the same question in regards to a variety of different relatives: "[Has your relative] been an alcoholic or problem drinker at any time in his/her life?”. The answers given were matched against the respondents' body mass indices (BMIs), a metric for obesity that was calculated based on self-reported weight and height. The study came up with very interesting results that varied from women to men.

Women who had a family history of alcoholism were nearly 50% more likely to be obese, with a BMI of 30 or higher, than women with abstinent relatives. However, with men, there was no correlation between obesity and a family history of alcoholism at all. “There was an almost perfect overlap between the B.M.I. distribution of people without a family history of alcoholism and people with a family history of alcoholism,” Grucza told the New York Times about the 1992 group. What accounted for the changes from the 1992 study to the 2002 study?

"Our findings suggest that a link between FHA [family history of alcoholism] and obesity has emerged in recent years, particularly among women," wrote the researchers in their article, which appeared Jan. 6 in the Archives of General Psychiatry. "The interaction between factors related to a FHA and the increasingly obesigenic environment may have resulted in a differential increase in the prevalence of obesity among individuals vulnerable to addiction. This may be specifically the result of a changing food environment and the increased availability of highly palatable foods."

Since the 1970s, the obesity rate has doubled from 15% of the US population to 33% in 2004.


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