Can Impulsive Personality Lead to Obesity? New Research says it’s possible

New research shows that the same compulsive behaviour associated with alcohol and drug addiction is also associated with food addiction


By Michelle Monteiro, Staff Writer

A study conducted at the University of Georgia (UGA) found that the same kinds of impulsive behaviour that cause some to abuse alcohol and drugs may also contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food.

James MacKillop, the principal investigator and associate professor of psychology in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, discussed study findings that were published in the academic journal Appetite.  “Our study shows that impulsive behaviour was not necessarily associated with obesity, but impulsive behaviours can lead to food addiction.”

Using the Yale Food Addiction Scale and the UPPS-P Impulsive Behaviour Scale, the research team measured levels of food addiction and impulsivity in a sample group of over two hundred participants.  These results were compared against the participants’ body mass index (BMI).  Those that exhibited symptoms of food addiction also had higher BMI levels.

Obesity is a major public health concern in North America.  In Canada, according to 2012 statistics, approximately 52.5 per cent of adults and 21.8 per cent of children between the ages of twelve and seventeen are overweight or obese.  Health problems related to obesity include type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, high blood pressure, cardiac illnesses, and cancer.

MacKillop’s study is one of the first to examine addictive eating habits and how they contribute to obesity.  His team plans to expand their research by analyzing brain activity of different individuals as they make decisions about food.

“Now, we realize that certain types of food also hijack these brain circuits and lay the foundation for compulsive eating habits that are similar to drug addiction,” he says.

For now, MacKillop hopes that the results of the study will eventually help physicians develop treatment and interventions for obese individuals who battle an addiction to food.



Known as Michelle, she has been writing since hands could grasp paper and pencils. She has learned that a pencil is an extension of the hand, a gateway to the psyche. Currently, she’s an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, completing a BA in English. For more of her quirkiness, follow her blog at http://therealmichellemonteiro.wordpress.com

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