Impulsivity a risk factor for food addiction

People who impulsively scarf down whole bags of potato chips or bowls of candy could be at a higher risk of developing food addictions or eating disorders, according to researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine. And this type of impulsive behavior, they say, may be difficult to control because cellular activity in the part of the brain involved with reward may be to blame.

Previous research has shown that people with eating disorders and obesity are more impulsive than people without those conditions. For example, they may be more likely to blurt things out that they later regret or do something without thinking through the consequences. The research was unclear on whether the impulsivity existed before the disordered eating existed or was a result.

For the recent study, researchers measured the response of experimental models who were exposed to a high sugar diet for an hour every day. Models shown to be more impulsive rapidly developed binge eating habits and showed heightened cravings and the loss of control over the junk diet. This was measured as the inability to properly gauge negative consequences of eating sugary foods. By contrast the models shown to be less impulsive did not display abnormal eating behavior around the sugary foods.

The researchers said the study provides more evidence that similar mechanisms are involved in food addiction and drug addiction.

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