Food Addiction and Impulsivity

food addictionFor many individuals, it is hard to ‘eat just one’ of a tempting treat—sometimes, it is impossible.[1] However, a new study has suggested that this is due to the failure of self-control, giving way to impulsivity, which results from cellular activities in the part of the brain involved with reward.1 In fact, researchers believe that impulsivity is a risk factor for food addiction and other eating disorders.1

Past research has shown that individuals who suffer from eating disorders and obesity are more impulsive than individuals who do not suffer from such.1 For example, people with eating disorders or who are obese are more likely to blurt out something they regret saying later or begin an activity without thinking through the consequences.1 However, it was still unclear whether impulsivity existed before dysfunctional eating or if it developed as a result of it.1

Therefore, in this recent study, researchers attempted to answer this question by measuring for one hour daily the inability to withhold an impulsive response in experimental models who were exposed to a diet high in sugar.1 Models who have shown to be more impulsive were more likely to develop binge eating, showing intense cravings and the loss of control over a junk food diet.1 On the other hand, models that were less impulsive demonstrated the ability to appropriately control impulsive behavior and did not show abnormal eating behaviors even when exposed to the sugary diet.1

The impulsive models showed an increased expression of a transcription factor, called Delta-FosB, in the nucleus accumbens, which is an area of the brain involved in reward evaluation and impulsive behavior.1

“While impulsivity might have aided ancestors to choose calorie-rich foods when food was scarce, our study suggests 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 Boston University School of Medicine.1

“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 and first author of the study.1

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Food Addiction Linked to Impulsivity. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 12, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/05/12/food-addiction-linked-to-impulsivity/69737.html

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