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Good Housekeeping
Jennifer Chan, Assistant Managing Editor
May 06, 2012

Binge Eating May Lead to Addiction-Like Behavior

Research shows that it doesn't take much for binge eaters to start displaying behavior you'd expect from drug addicts. By Jennifer Chan

Binge eating and drug addiction have many things in common. First, anyone can become a victim. Second, they’re both characterized by a certain lack of control. And according to a study published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, it doesn’t take much for a simple binge eater to start displaying symptoms normally seen in drug addicts.

"Given the common characteristics of these two types of disorders, it is not surprising that the co-occurrence of eating disorders and substance abuse disorders is high," says Patricia Sue Grigson, lead author of the study. "It is unknown, however, whether loss of control in one disorder predisposes an individual to loss of control in another."

Using rats for their experiments, Grigson and researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine conducted an experiment which would explain whether rats with a propensity for fat bingeing would show the same addictive symptoms when presented with cocaine. They gave rats four different diets, which consisted of normal rat chow, continuous ad lib access to an optional source of dietary fat; one hour of access to optional dietary fat daily; and one hour of access to dietary fat on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. 

Through this experiment, research discovered that fat bingeing occurred in rats that had access to dietary fat on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This same group was also more likely to take cocaine later in training, try to get a hold of cocaine even after being signaled that there was none left, and work harder for it when requirements increased.

Meanwhile, rats with continuous access to fat consumed more fat than anyone else in the group but were three times less likely to show addiction-like behavior for cocaine than those that had access to dietary fat on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

According to researchers, it was probably not the amount of fat consumed that influenced the addiction-like behavior but the inconsistent binge-type way the rats consumed fat. At the moment, researchers are still looking into how binge eating encourages addiction-like behaviors in humans. A deeper study needs to be conducted.

Still, since most of us know how unhealthy binge eating is, this only adds one more reason to avoid this kind of behavior. And if you feel tempted to binge eat because of emotional problems you might be having, you may want to get help so you can resolve these underlying causes.


(Photo by axom. via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Jennifer Chan
Assistant Managing Editor
Jennifer Chan was a contributing writer for Female Network for two years before formally joining the team as a staff writer in July 2012... Read more...
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