Neurobiology of food addiction

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 Jul;13(4):359-65. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32833ad4d4.


Purpose of review: To review recent work on disorders related to food use, including food addiction, and to highlight the similarities and differences between food and drugs of abuse.

Recent findings: Recent work on food use disorders has demonstrated that the same neurobiological pathways that are implicated in drug abuse also modulate food consumption, and that the body's regulation of food intake involves a complex set of peripheral and central signaling networks. Moreover, new research indicates that rats can become addicted to certain foods, that men and women may respond differently to external food cues, and that the intrauterine environment may significantly impact a child's subsequent risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia.

Summary: First, work presented in this review strongly supports the notion that food addiction is a real phenomenon. Second, although food and drugs of abuse act on the same central networks, food consumption is also regulated by peripheral signaling systems, which adds to the complexity of understanding how the body regulates eating, and of treating pathological eating habits. Third, neurobiological research reviewed here indicates that traditional pharmacological and behavioral interventions for other substance-use disorders may prove useful in treating obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology