The impulsive behavior that makes people alcohol and drug addicts is also a major contributor in food addiction, a new study finds.
Researchers from Boston University noted that people with impulsive personalities are more likely to portray a compulsive eating disorder, similar to that of a drug addict. This leads to food addiction and later obesity.
"While impulsivity might have aided ancestors to choose calorie-rich foods when food was scarce, our study results suggest that, in today's calorie-rich environment, impulsivity promotes pathological overeating," said Pietro Cottone, lead author of the study in a press statement.
For the study, a group of models were exposed to a high-sugar diet for an hour. Researchers noted that the more impulsive models had trouble refraining from eating junk food and rapidly developed binge eating. On the other hand, less impulsive models demonstrated the ability to appropriately control impulsive behavior and did not show abnormal eating behavior when exposed to the sugary diet.
Researchers also noted heightened activities in the area of the brain involved in reward evaluation and impulsive behavior among participants with impulsive personalities.
"Our results add further evidence to the idea that there are similar mechanisms involved in both drug and food addiction behavior," said Clara Velazquez-Sanchez, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Addictive Disorder in the statement.
The researchers also clarified that though impulsive behavior can lead to food addiction; it is not necessarily associated with obesity. Just because a person displays impulsive behavior doesn't mean he's obese. However, this behavior can lead to food addiction, which results in higher BMI, the driving force behind obesity.
More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting them at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. The food industry has been a big contributor to this, with the manufacturing of foods that are high in fat, sodium, sugar and other flavorful additives. These processed foods produce a craving similar to that for drugs.
The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Peter Paul Career Development Professorship, the McManus Charitable Trust, and Boston University's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).
Findings were published online in Neuropsychopharmacology.