Addictive Personalities

Study finds link between obesity and alcoholism

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Risk for alcoholism is associated with an increased risk for obesity, according to a new study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine.

For families with a history of alcoholism, obesity risks are increased. Both men and women who share these family histories were more likely to be obese in 2002 than members of that same high-risk group had been in 1992.

Lead author Richard A. Grucza, PhD, said they looked at cross-heritability, an analysis that provides insight into whether a predisposition to one condition might also contribute to other conditions.

They found that there is a cross-heritability link between obesity and alcoholism, while the study also suggested some environmental links exist -- an important distinction, Grucza said.

Garza claims the environment is the component that changed between 1992 and 2002, not genes.

Food contains more calories than what we ate in earlier decades, much of which is comprised of sugar, fat and salt that appeal to reward centers in the brain. About 15 percent of the American population is obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.

Because alcohol and drugs also affect the same reward centers in the brain, the researchers hypothesized overconsumption of foods high in sugar, fat and salt might be greater in people with a predisposition to addiction, so he and his team analyzed data from two large alcoholism surveys from the last two decades. Women with a family history of alcoholism were 49 percent more likely to be obese than those without a family history, according to study results. The same relationship existed in men, but not to the same extent.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 31, 2010
Last Updated:
January 5, 2011