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Curr Pharm Des. 2011;17(12):1149-57.

Food addiction and neuroimaging.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida, 100 Newell Drive, PO Box 100256, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.


Obesity has become a serious epidemic and one of the leading global health problems. However, much of the current debate has been fractious, and etiologies of obesity have been attributed to eating behavior (i.e. fast food consumption), personality, depression, addiction or genetics. One of the interesting new hypotheses for explaining the development of obesity involves a food addiction model, which suggests that food is not eaten as much for survival as pleasure and that hedonic overeating is relevant to both substance-related disorders and eating disorders. Accumulating evidence has shown that there are a number of shared neural and hormonal pathways as well as distinct differences in these pathways that may help researchers discover why certain individuals continue to overeat despite health and other consequences, and becomes more and more obese. Functional neuroimaging studies have further revealed that pleasant smelling, looking, and tasting food has reinforcing characteristics similar to drugs of abuse. Many of the brain changes reported for hedonic eating and obesity are also seen in various types of addictions. Most importantly, overeating and obesity may have an acquired drive similar to drug addiction with respect to motivation and incentive craving. In both cases, the desire and continued satisfaction occur after early and repeated exposure to stimuli. The acquired drive for eating 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. In the current paper, we first provide a summary of literature on food addition from eight different perspectives, and then we proposed a research paradigm that may allow screening of new pharmacological treatment on the basis of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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