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Current Opinion in Gastroenterology:
doi: 10.1097/MOG.0b013e328336528d
Nutrition: Edited by David H. Alpers and William F. Stenson

Food addiction: true or false?

Corsica, Joyce A; Pelchat, Marcia L

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Purpose of review: Food addiction has been implicated as a putative causal factor in chronic overeating, binge eating, and obesity. The concept of food addiction has been controversial historically due to definitional and conceptual difficulties and to a lack of rigorous scientific data.

Recent findings: Support for the food addiction hypothesis comes from alterations in neurochemistry (dopamine, endogenous opioids), neuroanatomy (limbic system), and self-medication behaviors. Foods identified as having potential addictive properties include sweets, carbohydrates, fats, sweet/fat combinations, and possibly processed and/or high salt foods. Eating topography has been identified as a necessary factor in neural pathway changes that promote addiction-like properties in response to some foods. A recently developed food addiction scale shows promise in identifying food addiction.

Summary: Recent findings have strengthened the case for food addiction. These findings may serve to validate the perception of food addiction in patients and inform psychoeducational, cognitive-behavioral, and/or pharmacological treatment for chronic food cravings, compulsive overeating, and binge eating that may represent a phenotype of obesity. Screening for food addiction has the potential to identify people with eating difficulties that seriously compromise weight management efforts. Future research should include a focus on human food addiction research; evaluating the impact of treatment on underlying neurochemistry; and prevention or reversal of food addiction in humans.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.


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