Patricia Sue Grigson, a professor in Pennsylvania State University's Department of Neural and Behavioral Sciences, said drug addiction persists as a major problem in the United States.
"Likewise, excessive food intake, like binge eating, has become problematic," Grigson said in a statement. "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."
Grigson and colleagues found a link between binging on fat and the development of cocaine-seeking and cocaine-taking behaviors in rats, suggesting that conditions promoting excessive behavior toward one substance can increase the probability of excessive behavior toward another.
The researchers used rats to test whether a history of binge eating on fat would augment addiction-like behavior toward cocaine, by giving four groups of rats four different diets -- normal rat chow; continuous access to an optional source of dietary fat; 1 hour of access to optional dietary fat daily; and 1 hour of access to dietary fat on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
All four groups also had unrestricted access to nutritionally complete chow and water.
The study, published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, found fat binging behaviors developed in the rats with access to dietary fat on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays -- the group with the most restricted access to the optional fat.