Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Parents’ drinking habits may be linked to food addiction among their children

“People who have a family history of addiction may be at greater risk for developing a problematic relationship with highly processed foods, which is really challenging in a food environment where these foods are cheap, accessible and heavily marketed.”
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Story at a glance


  • Researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed the relationship between a parent’s problematic alcohol use, obesity and their child’s eating behaviors and substance use. 

  • The team found that parental alcohol abuse led not only to a higher risk of processed food addiction among their children, but also led to use of other substances. 

  • Because diets consisting of highly processed foods alongside addictive substance use can lead to myriad health problems, the team concluded that interventions may be necessary to mitigate risk.   

People whose parents have a history of alcohol abuse are at higher risk for developing an addiction to highly processed food, according to a new study

Researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed the relationship between a parent’s problematic alcohol use, obesity and their child’s eating behaviors and substance use to better understand whether an “addictive-like eating phenotype exists.” 

The team found that parental alcohol abuse led not only to increased risk of processed food addiction among their children, but also led to the use of other substances such as alcohol, cannabis, tobacco and vaping. 

“People who have a family history of addiction may be at greater risk for developing a problematic relationship with highly processed foods, which is really challenging in a food environment where these foods are cheap, accessible and heavily marketed,” Lindzey Hoover, the study’s lead author, said in a news release.  

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Overall, 1 in 5 people exhibit symptoms of addiction to highly processed foods, leading to a loss of control over intake and severe cravings, researchers said. 

Because diets consisting of highly processed foods alongside addictive substance use can lead to a myriad health problem, the team concluded that interventions may be necessary to mitigate risk. 

“Public health approaches that have reduced the harm of other addictive substances, like restricting marketing to kids, may be important to consider to reduce the negative impact of highly processed foods,” Hoover said.   

The study was published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.