Overlaps in the nosology of substance abuse and overeating: the translational implications of "food addiction"

Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2011 Sep;4(3):133-9. doi: 10.2174/1874473711104030133.


The obesity epidemic has led to the postulation that highly palatable foods may be "addictive" for some individuals. This idea is supported by the fact that there are overlaps in brain circuitry that underlie addictive behavior as well as overeating. In this paper, we discuss the utility of the concept of "food addiction" as it may relate to treating certain disordered eating behaviors. Using criteria set forth in the DSM-IV for substance-use disorders, we review data that have emerged from animal models suggesting that overeating, in the form of binge eating, fits some of the criteria for substance abuse. Further, we discuss preclinical data revealing that the addiction-like behavioral changes observed in response to overeating are concomitant with neurochemical changes that are similar to those observed in response to drugs of abuse. With this background and evidence in mind, we conclude this article with a discussion as to how "food addiction" research may translate into clinical strategies and pharmaceutical treatments useful in curtailing overeating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / physiopathology
  • Food / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / diagnosis*
  • Hyperphagia / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Translational Research, Biomedical