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There are a plethora of things in life we cannot control. Getting a flat tire, missing a connecting flight because our initial plane was delayed or even the unfortunate fate of coming down with an illness. Each day we encounter things outside the realm of our control.
It turns out, one thing society has told us for many years that we can control – our ability to eat healthy, reasonable portion-sized meals — may be a matter of latent neurological responses and not a conscious choice.
Researchers say that the same addictive responses that control the behavior of people with substance abuse problems can similarly trigger addictions to overeating.
Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis published a study in early January, 2011 in The Archives of General Psychiatry. In the study, two separate surveys of 40,000 adults were conducted—the first in 1991 and 1992, the second a decade later in 2001-2002. The study set out to find a correlation between family history of alcoholism and obesity.
The first survey in the early 90's found no such thing. The second survey found something different.
According to the story written by Roni Caryn Rabin with the New York Times, “In 2001 and 2002, adults with a family history of alcoholism were 30 to 40 percent more likely to be obese than those with no alcoholism in the family. Women were at particularly high risk: they were almost 50 percent more likely to be obese if there was family alcoholism than if there wasn’t. (Men were 26 percent more likely to be obese.)”
So what changed over 10 years? Why now are we seeing family members with a history of alcoholism also struggling with obesity?
Richard A. Grucza, assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University and lead author of the new paper said, “Our so-called obesigenic, or obesity-inducing, food environment has changed in the decade between the two surveys. The most likely culprit, he said, ‘is the nature of the food we eat, and its tendency to appeal to the sorts of reward systems, which are the parts of the brain implicated in addiction.’”