The short answer is yes, there is a connection between addiction and overeating.
According to a survey done in 2001 and 2002, adults with alcoholism in their family were 30 to 40% more likely to be obese than adults whose families had no history of alcoholism.
Washington University's Dr. Richard A. Grucza says that the reason for the connection between alcoholism and overating “is the nature of the food we eat, and its tendency to appeal to the sorts of reward systems, which are the parts of the brain implicated in addiction.”
Dr. Grucza believes that foods loaded with sugar, salt, and fat can be especially harmful to people who have a "predisposition for addiction."
FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler has referred to these types of foods as "hyperpalatable," and he says they're more likely to be eaten in excess than healthier foods such as vegetables.
On a more scientific level, Dr. Kessler has written about the ability for "hyperpalatable" foods, such as fast-food, to alter brain chemistry, and trigger neurological responses that bring about further cravings for food.
On an EVEN MORE scientific level, these types of foods can stimulate the brain and cause it to release dopamine, which is a "neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center" of the brain.
Basically, obese people associate these unhealthy foods with pleasurable feelings, and eat in excess in an effort to maintain that good feeling.
Sounds like it's not 100% straightforward, but there are most definitely connections between people with addictions to substances and people who overeat.
[Image via AP Images.]
Tags: alcoholism, brain chemistry, dopamine, dr david kessler, dr richard a grucza, hyperpalatable foods, overeating, substances