Family History of Alcoholism Raises Obesity Risk

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A new study has found that people with a family history of alcoholism have a higher risk for obesity, especially women.

The report out of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that women with a family history of drinking were 49% more likely to be obese than other women.

Researchers saw the same thing for men, except the association was not as strong.

"In addiction research, we often look at what we call cross-heritability, which addresses the question of whether the predisposition to one condition also might contribute to other conditions," said study author Richard A. Grucza. "For example, alcoholism and drug abuse are cross-heritable. This new study demonstrates a cross-heritability between alcoholism and obesity."

HealthDay News writes:

One explanation for the increased risk of obesity among people with a family history of alcoholism could be that some people substitute one addiction for another. For example, after a person sees a close relative with a drinking problem, they may avoid alcohol but consume high-calorie foods that stimulate the same reward centers in the brain that react to alcohol, Grucza suggested.

"Much of what we eat nowadays... contains the sorts of calories -- particularly a combination of sugar, salt and fat -- that appeal to what are commonly called the reward centers in the brain," Grucza said. "Alcohol and drugs affect those same parts of the brain, and our thinking was that because the same brain structures are being stimulated, overconsumption of those foods might be greater in people with a predisposition to addiction."

The study is published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

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