'Food addiction' and its association with a dopaminergic multilocus genetic profile

Physiol Behav. 2013 Jun 13;118:63-9. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.05.014. Epub 2013 May 14.


Background: Our objective was to employ a novel genetic methodology - whereby functional variants of the dopamine pathway were aggregated to reflect a polygenic liability - in the study of food addiction. We anticipated that the composite index of elevated dopamine signaling (a multilocus genetic profile score [MLGP]) would distinguish those with a designation of food addiction (according to the Yale Food Addiction Scale [YFAS] criteria), and age and weight equivalent controls. Our second aim was to assess whether this index was positively associated with eating-related sub-phenotypes of food addiction (e.g. binge eating and food cravings).

Methods: Adults (n=120) recruited from the community were solicited for an overeating/overweight study. Eating-behavior questionnaires were completed and a blood sample was taken for genotyping.

Results and conclusions: The YFAS identified 21 participants with food addiction. As predicted, the MLGP score was higher in those with YFAS-diagnosed food addiction, and it correlated positively with binge eating, food cravings, and emotional overeating. We then tested a multiple-mediation model proposing that reward-driven overeating facilitates the relationship between the MLGP score and food addiction. The model was statistically significant, supporting the view that the relationship between a composite genetic index of dopamine signaling and food addiction is mediated by certain aspects of reward-responsive overeating.

Keywords: Dopamine; Food addiction; Genetics; Mediation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / genetics
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / psychology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / genetics
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific / genetics
  • Dopamine / genetics*
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / genetics*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics
  • Risk
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Young Adult


  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • SLC6A3 protein, human
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific
  • TCGA-specific type II deoxyribonucleases
  • Dopamine