Food addiction and obesity: evidence from bench to bedside

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2010 Jun;42(2):133-45. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2010.10400686.


Obesity has become a major health problem and epidemic. However, much of the current debate has been fractious and etiologies of obesity have been attributed to eating behavior or fast food, personality issues, depression, addiction, or genetics. One of the interesting new hypotheses for epidemic obesity is food addiction, which is associated with both substance-related disorder and eating disorder. Accumulating evidences have shown that there are many shared neural and hormonal pathways as well as distinct differences that may help researchers find why certain individuals overeat and become obese. Functional neuroimaging studies have further revealed that good or great smelling, looking, tasting, and reinforcing food has characteristics similar to that of drugs of abuse. Many of the brain changes reported for hedonic eating and obesity are also seen in various forms of addictions. Most importantly, overeating and obesity may have an acquired drive like drug addiction with respect to motivation and incentive; craving, wanting, and liking occur after early and repeated exposures to stimuli. The acquired drive for great food and relative weakness of the satiety signal would cause an imbalance between the drive and hunger/reward centers in the brain and their regulation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Eating / physiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / genetics
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / physiopathology
  • Food / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Obesity* / etiology
  • Obesity* / psychology
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Reward
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / etiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / psychology