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Food Addiction And Alcoholism - Similar Traits

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Food Addiction And Obesity

"the drive to eat is so intense..."

Is Food Addiction The Same As Alcoholism?"

Similar Genetic Traits Found

Alcoholism / Overeating Link?


Same Brain Chemical Could Cause Booze/Food Abuse

Researchers at Princeton and Rockefeller Universities may have discovered a common neuropeptide linked to both alcoholism and overeating. Previous studies have linked a

brain chemical called galanin to increased appetite.

But in a new animal study published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the

same chemical was found to trigger excessive alcohol consumption,

leading scientists to speculate that galanin may play a role in both compulsive disorders.

In the study, galanin-hyped rats chose drinking over eating - despite the compound's proven effects on appetite. Similar patterns are observed among human alcoholics who eat less regularly the more regularly they drink. Another parallel:

Animal subjects would forgo sleep in favor of more alcohol,

reflecting patterns of sleep disturbance found among human alcoholics.

Both alcoholics and chronic overeaters often complain of a

feeling of helplessness when caught in the grip of addictive behavior - as if there's "no off-switch"

in their consumption of either food or booze. Co-researcher Sarah Leibowitz suggests that alcohol and fatty foods in particular can lead to "nonhomeostatic" behavior in certain susceptible individuals, where they keep on consuming beyond the point of satiation or even comfort.

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While more research is merited, the study's preliminary findings are encouraging in that some day they may lead to more effective treatments for alcohol and food addictions. Meanwhile, the

link between the two compulsive disorders may suggest that the same kind of programs,

which have helped alcoholics achieve sobriety, may also allow overeaters to tap into their own higher power to surmount their problems. Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous take a spiritual approach and rely on group support. For those who want the latter without the former, Weight Watchers uses the group dynamic to help provide encouragement and accountability. (Please click on the heading to this full text and source)

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Food Addiction And Obesity

By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

"Obesity has long been blamed on weak willpower, overeating, genetics and lack of exercise. Now scientists increasingly are seeing signs that suggest there may be an additional contributor: food addiction. Monday night and again today, dozens of the nation's leading researchers in obesity, nutrition and addiction planned to discuss whether food has addictive properties for some people. They're gathering in New Haven, Conn., at a meeting sponsored by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. "We

believe that there is sufficient science to suggest there is something to this,

so we are bringing the leading authorities together to decide whether food addiction is real and what the underlying psychology and biology might be," says Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center. "It's surprising that our field has overlooked this concept for so long," he says.

"Society blames obesity only on the people who have it and has been close-minded to other explanations."

Support for the idea of food addiction comes from animal and human studies, including brain imaging research on humans, says Mark Gold, chief of addiction medicine at the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida, who is a co-chair for the meeting. In a medical setting, "we evaluated people who were too heavy to leave their reclining chairs and too big to walk out the doorway," he says. "They do not eat to survive. They love eating and spent the day planning their new takeout choices." Psychiatrist Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a speaker at the meeting, says the research in this area is complicated, but most people's weight problems aren't caused by food addiction. Some studies focus on dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure and reward. "

Impaired function of the brain dopamine system could make some people more vulnerable

to compulsive eating, which could lead to morbid obesity," Volkow says. She did ground breaking research in this area while at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven (N.Y.) National Laboratory. For some compulsive eaters, the drive to eat is so intense that it overshadows the motivation to engage in other rewarding activities, and it becomes difficult to exercise self-control, she says. This is similar to the compulsion that an addict feels to take drugs, she says. "When this occurs, the compulsive eating behavior can interfere with their well-being and their health." But there are many differences between addiction to drugs and the intense compulsion for food, she says. Food is necessary for survival, and eating is a complex behavior involving many different hormones and systems in the body, not just the pleasure/reward system, Volkow says. "There are multiple factors that determine how much people eat and what they eat." She does not believe that most people are overweight because their brains' dopamine systems don't function properly.

There are many causes of excess weight, including unhealthful eating habits,

lack of exercise, genetic vulnerability and stress, she says. Although there is no official definition of food addiction, Gold defines it in much the same way as other substance dependence:
"Eating too much despite consequences, even dire consequences to health; being preoccupied with food, food preparation and meals; trying and failing to cut back on food intake; feeling guilty about eating and overeating." He believes some foods are more addictive than others. "It may be that doughnuts with high fat and high sugar cause more brain reward than soup."

Others pooh-pooh the idea of food addiction. "This is a dumbing down of the term 'addiction,'"

" says Rick Berman, executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group financed by the restaurant and food industry. "The term is being overused. People are not holding up convenience stores to get their hands on Twinkies. "Lots of people love cheesecake and would eat it whenever it's offered, but I wouldn't call that an addiction," he says. "The issue here is the intensity of people's cravings, and those are going to differ." (Please click the red rectangle to this text and source)

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