Can food be addictive? Public health and policy implications

Addiction. 2011 Jul;106(7):1208-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03301.x. Epub 2011 Feb 14.


Aims: Data suggest that hyperpalatable foods may be capable of triggering an addictive process. Although the addictive potential of foods continues to be debated, important lessons learned in reducing the health and economic consequences of drug addiction may be especially useful in combating food-related problems.

Methods: In the current paper, we review the potential application of policy and public health approaches that have been effective in reducing the impact of addictive substances to food-related problems.

Results: Corporate responsibility, public health approaches, environmental change and global efforts all warrant strong consideration in reducing obesity and diet-related disease.

Conclusions: Although there exist important differences between foods and addictive drugs, ignoring analogous neural and behavioral effects of foods and drugs of abuse may result in increased food-related disease and associated social and economic burdens. Public health interventions that have been effective in reducing the impact of addictive drugs may have a role in targeting obesity and related diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive*
  • Child
  • Cues
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Fast Foods / adverse effects
  • Fast Foods / economics
  • Fast Foods / supply & distribution
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Food / adverse effects*
  • Food / classification
  • Food / economics
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Marketing*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Public Health*
  • Public Policy*
  • Rats