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Study Ties Impulsivity to Food Addiction

Update Date: Jan 25, 2014 02:50 AM EST

Even though personalities cannot predict addictive behaviors, several studies have found correlations between types of characteristics and people's likelihood of developing some kind of behavioral problems. For example, researchers have suggested that impulsive behaviors can be linked to alcohol and drug abuse. In a new study, researchers from the University of Georgia (UGA) tied impulsivity to food addiction.

"The notion of food addiction is a very new one, and one that has generated a lot of interest," said James MacKillop, the study's principal investigator and associate professor of psychology in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "My lab generally studies alcohol, nicotine and other forms of drug addiction, but we think it's possible to think about impulsivity, food addiction and obesity using some of the same techniques."

MacKillop worked with doctoral students Cara Murphy and Monika Stojek in order to examine the relationship between impulsive behaviors and food addiction. The researchers utilized the Yale Food Addiction Scale and he UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale in order to assess 233 participants. Each participant's body mass index (BMI), which takes into account weight in relation to height and is a measurement of obesity, was recorded as well.

The researchers discovered that although impulsivity was not directly linked to causing obesity, it was tied to potentially causing food addiction. The researchers also found that food addiction was a huge contributor for the participants with higher BMIs.

"Modern neuroscience has helped us understand how substances like drugs and alcohol co-opt areas of the brain that evolved to release dopamine and create a sense of happiness or satisfaction," MacKillop said according to the university's news release. "And now we realize that certain types of food also hijack these brain circuits and lay the foundation for compulsive eating habits that are similar to drug addiction."

With funding from the UGA's Obesity Initiative the researchers plan on studying brain activity and how the brain functions when people are making decisions about food. The findings were published in the journal, Appetite.

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