Dual health-risk behaviors in young adults: Problem drinking and maladaptive eating both linked to the brain’s reward pathway and impulsivity

Risky drinking often co-occurs with maladaptive eating in young adults, according to a study reported in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. While previous research had suggested a link between heavy alcohol use and obesity-related factors in college students, the latest study aimed to identify specific profiles of problematic drinking, food addiction, and obesity within a more diverse sample of community-dwelling young people. The researchers also explored shared theoretical risk factors for heavy drinking and overeating, and how these differ across the profiles. Calorie-dense food and alcohol both require little effort to obtain and consume, and each generates immediate and potent experiences of reward in the brain. According to ‘reinforcer pathology’ theory, people who place a high value (‘demand’) on unhealthy items, and who also favor small immediate rewards (such as food and alcohol) over larger delayed rewards (such as health), are at highest risk for overconsumption