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Parents’ Drinking Habits May Increase Risk of Food Addiction in Children



A new University of Michigan study found that people who have a parent who has had problems with alcohol are more likely to show signs of an addiction to foods that are highly processed.

These foods, like pizza, chocolate, ice cream, and fries, have unnaturally high levels of refined carbohydrates and fats, which may cause some people to become addicted.

The researchers at the University of Michigan wanted to know if a parent’s alcoholism—a major risk factor for addiction—predicted an increased risk of addiction to highly processed foods.

“People who have a family history of addiction may be at greater risk for developing a problematic relationship with highly processed foods, which is really challenging in a food environment where these foods are cheap, accessible and heavily marketed,” said Lindzey Hoover, U-M psychology graduate student and the study’s lead author.

Yet, habit-forming reactions didn’t end with food, as individuals with food addiction were additionally bound to display personal issues, the research showed.

In today’s world, the leading causes of preventable death are diets that are dominated by highly processed food and an excessive intake of addictive substances. According to the findings of this study, interventions are required to simultaneously reduce substance use and addictive eating.

“Public health approaches that have reduced the harm of other addictive substances, like restricting marketing to kids, may be important to consider to reduce the negative impact of highly processed foods,” Hoover said.

The study is published in the journal Psychology of Addiction. Hayley Yu, a graduate student in psychology at U-M, is a co-author; Jenna Cummings, postdoctoral fellow for the Division of Populace Health Research, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; Stuart Ferguson, professor at the University of Tasmania; and Ashley Gearhardt, U-M associate professor of psychology.


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