Psychological and Neurobiological Correlates of Food Addiction

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2016;129:85-110. doi: 10.1016/bs.irn.2016.06.003. Epub 2016 Jul 22.

Abstract

Food addiction (FA) is loosely defined as hedonic eating behavior involving the consumption of highly palatable foods (ie, foods high in salt, fat, and sugar) in quantities beyond homeostatic energy requirements. FA shares some common symptomology with other pathological eating disorders, such as binge eating. Current theories suggest that FA shares both behavioral similarities and overlapping neural correlates to other substance addictions. Although preliminary, neuroimaging studies in response to food cues and the consumption of highly palatable food in individuals with FA compared to healthy controls have shown differing activation patterns and connectivity in brain reward circuits including regions such as the striatum, amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex, insula, and nucleus accumbens. Additional effects have been noted in the hypothalamus, a brain area responsible for regulating eating behaviors and peripheral satiety networks. FA is highly impacted by impulsivity and mood. Chronic stress can negatively affect hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functioning, thus influencing eating behavior and increasing desirability of highly palatable foods. Future work will require clearly defining FA as a distinct diagnosis from other eating disorders.

Keywords: Addictive behavior; Connectivity; Eating addiction; Food addiction; Food cues; Reward circuitry; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnostic imaging
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / diagnostic imaging
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / physiopathology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Neurobiology
  • Neuroimaging
  • Reward*