ARE CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS DESTINED TO BECOME OBESE?
A recent research study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis demonstrated that women with a family history of alcoholism were significantly more likely to become obese than women who did not have such a family history. In their analysis of patients in an alcoholism survey study spanning two eras, 1991-1992 and 2001-2002, the researchers found that women with family history of alcoholism were 49% more likely to become obese.
There has been a good deal of speculation of obesity as a product of a “food addiction” and so by one line of reasoning a genetic predisposition might very well lead to a higher rate of obesity and other addictions. This study tends to support the idea that there could possibly be an inherited propensity toward overconsumption of food or alcohol or substances. On the other hand, such a study might play into psychological stress children of alcoholics experience and we know that consumption of food is a soothing mechanism by which people cope with psychological stress.
I am struck by many research studies which identify subgroups among us who are more likely than the rest of us to become obese. This includes a great many people taking various medications, which are known to increase appetite, people whose own parents are obese, people whose social network and group of friends are obese, people who are less affluent, people with attention deficit disorder, depression or a host of other psychological conditions, and perhaps people whose parents were alcoholics. While each of these subgroup studies might help in the wider effort to prevent and combat obesity, to some degree the focus on subgroups might detract a bit from the overarching conclusion that virtually everyone is at risk of obesity when placed in the type of environment that in which most of us live today in the developed world.
That is to say with most Americans now clinically overweight or obese, it stands to reason that solutions must be fairly universal and not too specifically aimed at narrower subgroups. On the other hand, obesity prevention efforts in preschools, schools, homes, youth groups, clubs, churches, Scouts and other venues might well improve the odds of success by delivering even more potent messages and instituting more rigorous programs of obesity prevention for those of greatest risk.