Excessive Consumption of Alcohol May Trigger Overeating, Finds Study

Alcoholism is often associated with eating disorders or other substance use disorders. Studies have shown that an excessive consumption of alcohol contributes to weight gain. With alcohol being the second most calorie-dense nutrient after fat, an average wine drinker consumes an excess of 2,000 calories per month (equivalent to 141 ice creams a year). Similarly, in individuals involved in heavy drinking, alcohol alone accounts for nearly 10 percent of the calories they ingest. They eventually develop a beer belly, puffed face, swollen eyes and an overall gain in weight.

A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications highlighted the potential link between effective alcohol intake and overeating. Alcohol has been found to activate specific neurons present in the hypothalamus of the brain, which greatly influences feeding behavior of an individual. Previous studies had also revealed that the alteration in the activity of agouti-related protein (AGRP), found in the hypothalamus led to over eating after consumption of alcohol. According to the researchers, alcohol increases the electrical activity in AGRP and since these cells are specialized to regulate appetite, it makes the individual eat more after drinking.

Curbing binge eating by treating AGRP

In the study conducted by researchers at University College London, some mice were treated with an inhibitor that blocked AGRP cells from being activated. It was found that the animals went back to their old eating habits and no effect of alcohol was noticed on their food intake.

As part of the study, the researchers injected the mice with one dose of alcohol that was equivalent to 150-pound adult drinking. The study observed the mice (both male and female) to have consumed larger amounts of food within one to four hours after being dosed. This suggested that alcohol-induced overeating was not influenced by social situations.

Further, it was found that deep-brain ethanol levels activated and increased AGRP cells in the alcohol-treated mice, acting in a similar way in which fasting or hunger hormones affect the neurons. According to Bryan Roth of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, “The study has done a pretty nice job nailing down that this is at least one of the brain regions involved in alcohol induced overeating.”

However, a detailed research is needed to identify other neural mechanisms involved in energy balance and nutrition that could be affected by alcohol.

Alcoholism and eating disorders: growing health hazards

Nearly 17.6 million people (one in every 12 adults) suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence, while millions of others engage in dangerous drinking habits, as per a 2015 report by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Alcohol is also the most abused drug among the youth, making it a major public health concern, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Similarly, consequences of eating disorders can also be serious. A long-term treatment plan aims to bring people back to normal eating habits and quit drinking through medications, psychotherapy, behavioral therapy or with the help of support groups.

Road to recovery

Eating disorders have been recognized as a mental disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). Ideally, binge eating is defined as the act of eating more quantity of food at one go. While the excess food can lead to weight gain, it can also cause other physical or mental health issues.

If you know someone battling an eating disorder or an addiction, it is time to get professional help at a certified facility. The Recover Mental Health can help you find the finest binge eating rehab in your vicinity. Recover Mental Health is a resource center dedicated to providing information on everything related to mental health and substance abuse. With over 21,000 listings in our directory, we provide quick and easy access to treatment centers across the United States and Canada. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866–593–2339 to know about various binge eating rehab centers across the U.S.