The researchers say the association between a family history of alcoholism and obesity risk has become more pronounced in recent years, as both men and women with such a family history were more likely to be obese in 2002 than members of that same high-risk group had been in 1992, a university release reported Wednesday.
"In addiction research, we often look at what we call cross-heritability, which addresses the question of whether the predisposition to one condition also might contribute to other conditions," says study author Richard A. Grucza. "For example, alcoholism and drug abuse are cross-heritable.
"This new study demonstrates a cross-heritability between alcoholism and obesity, but it also says -- and this is very important -- that some of the risks must be a function of the environment," Grucza says. "The environment is what changed between the 1990s and the 2000s. It wasn't people's genes."
Grucza and his team say individuals with a family history of alcoholism, particularly women, have an elevated obesity risk and that risk seems to be growing.
Grucza say he believes that may result from changes in the food we eat and the availability of more foods that interact with the same brain areas as addictive drugs, including alcohol.