Boston Researchers Identify Impulsivity as Factor for Food Addiction and Eating Disorders


Have you ever been in a situation where you decided to eat just one potato chip or a chocolate cookie, but ended up eating the whole packet?

Well, a latest Boston University School of Medicine study has found that self-control related to tempting treats is practically impossible. Researchers said that lack of self-control is the result of cellular activities in the brain's reward center.

People suffering from either an eating disorder or obesity have been found to be more impulsive than their healthier peers. Researchers said that such people are more likely to let something slip out or invest in a project without analysing through the consequences.

 "While impulsivity might have aided ancestors to choose calorie-rich food items when food was scarce, our study results suggest that in today's calorie-rich environment impulsivity promotes pathological overeating," said Pietro Cottone, PhD, co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders and associate professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at BUSM, in a statement.

For the study, the researchers kept a group of models on a high-sugar diet for an hour. They found that some of the models with impulsive personalities found it difficult abstaining from eating junk food. They ended up binge eating and displayed intense craving. On the other hand, models with less impulsive behaviour did not display irregular eating habits when given the high-sugar diet.

The researchers also observed heightened activity in the nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain associated with reward evaluation and impulsive behaviour, of the impulsive models.

"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.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults (34.9 percent) are obese. They face increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Although many blame the food industry for manufacturing food items rich in fat, sodium, sugar and other flavorful additives for obesity, a recent University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) study found that individuals are to blame for their own obesity and not restaurants, grocery stores, farmers, or government policies.

The findings were published online in Neuropsychopharmacology.

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