Body Mass Index and Alcohol Consumption: Family History of Alcoholism as a Moderator

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Abstract

Recent research suggests that excess food consumption may be conceptualized as an addictive behavior. Much of the evidence comes from neurobiological similarities between drug and food consumption. In addition, an inverse relation between alcohol consumption and body mass index (BMI) has been observed. Previous research has hypothesized that this inverse relation is attributable to competition between food and alcohol for similar neurotransmitter receptors. The current study explored this neurobiological hypothesis further by examining the influence of an indicator of biological risk associated with alcohol problems (family history of alcoholism) on the relationship between alcohol and food intake. Data from 37,259 participants in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) were included in the study. BMI, family history of alcoholism, gender, and race/ethnicity were assessed as predictors of typical drinking frequency and estimated blood alcohol concentration (BAC). An inverse relationship between alcohol consumption and BMI was demonstrated. An attenuation of family history effects on drinking behavior was evident for obese compared to nonobese participants. The results suggest a neurobiological link between alcohol use and food consumption, consistent with theories characterizing excess food consumption as an addictive behavior.

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