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Annu Rev Nutr. 2016 Jul 17;36:105-28. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071715-050909. Epub 2016 Jun 1.

The Neurobiology of "Food Addiction" and Its Implications for Obesity Treatment and Policy.

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School of Psychological Sciences and Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences, Monash University, Clayton Victoria 3800, Australia; email:
University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland 4029 Australia.
Neuroscience Interdepartmental Graduate Program, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095.
School of Physiology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia.
Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland 4006 Australia.


There is a growing view that certain foods, particularly those high in refined sugars and fats, are addictive and that some forms of obesity can usefully be treated as a food addiction. This perspective is supported by a growing body of neuroscience research demonstrating that the chronic consumption of energy-dense foods causes changes in the brain's reward pathway that are central to the development and maintenance of drug addiction. Obese and overweight individuals also display patterns of eating behavior that resemble the ways in which addicted individuals consume drugs. We critically review the evidence that some forms of obesity or overeating could be considered a food addiction and argue that the use of food addiction as a diagnostic category is premature. We also examine some of the potential positive and negative clinical, social, and public policy implications of describing obesity as a food addiction that require further investigation.


food addiction; neuroscience; obesity; policy; stigma; treatment

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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