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Obes Rev. 2017 Jul;18(7):765-775. doi: 10.1111/obr.12542. Epub 2017 Apr 21.

Obesity and addiction: can a complication of surgery help us understand the connection?

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Pharmacological Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA.
Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA.
Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Mt. Sinai West, New York, NY, USA.
Department of Integrative Physiology & Neuroscience, Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Pullman, WA, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.
University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Grand Forks, ND, USA.
Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, Fargo, ND, USA.
Kendall Regional Medical Center, Hospital, Corporation of America - Physician Services Group, Miami, FL, USA.
Department of Psychology, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI, USA.
School of Pharmacy, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, USA.
Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR, USA.
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center, Boston, MA, USA.


Obesity is a multifactorial, chronic disease that has proven difficult to treat. An increased understanding of aetiological mechanisms is critical to the development of more effective obesity prevention and treatment strategies. A growing body of empirical evidence has demonstrated parallels between obesity, overeating and substance abuse, including shared behavioural, psychological and neurophysiological factors implicated in the excessive intake of both food and substances of abuse. Several different lines of research have recently emerged that hold the potential to shed light on the connection between obesity, food reward and addiction, with studies examining changes in alcohol use/misuse after weight loss surgery providing a particularly interesting perspective on these interrelationships. However, these lines of investigation have proceeded in relative isolation, and relevant research findings have yet to be integrated in a synthesized, comprehensive manner. To provide an opportunity to achieve such a synthesis, a scientific symposium was convened at the Radcliffe Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Invited participants were researchers working in diverse domains related to the intersection between obesity and addiction. Extensive discussion was generated suggesting novel research directions. In this article, we summarize and synthesize the symposium participants' ongoing research in this area, incorporating additional relevant research holding potential clues regarding the connections between obesity, weight loss surgery and addiction.


Addiction; Roux-en-Y gastric bypass; alcohol; bariatric surgery

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