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Neurobiology of food addiction

Blumenthal, Daniel Ma; Gold, Mark Sb

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: July 2010 - Volume 13 - Issue 4 - p 359–365
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32833ad4d4
Genes and cell metabolism: Edited by Nada Abumrad and Samuel Klein

Purpose of review To review recent work on disorders related to food use, including food addiction, and to highlight the similarities and differences between food and drugs of abuse.

Recent findings Recent work on food use disorders has demonstrated that the same neurobiological pathways that are implicated in drug abuse also modulate food consumption, and that the body's regulation of food intake involves a complex set of peripheral and central signaling networks. Moreover, new research indicates that rats can become addicted to certain foods, that men and women may respond differently to external food cues, and that the intrauterine environment may significantly impact a child's subsequent risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia.

Summary First, work presented in this review strongly supports the notion that food addiction is a real phenomenon. Second, although food and drugs of abuse act on the same central networks, food consumption is also regulated by peripheral signaling systems, which adds to the complexity of understanding how the body regulates eating, and of treating pathological eating habits. Third, neurobiological research reviewed here indicates that traditional pharmacological and behavioral interventions for other substance-use disorders may prove useful in treating obesity.

aHarvard Medical School and Harvard Business School, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

bMcKnight Brain Institute, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

Correspondence to Mark S. Gold, MD, Donald R. Dizney Eminent Scholar and Distinguished Professor, University of Florida College of Medicine and McKnight Brain Institute, P.O. Box #100183, Gainesville, FL 32610-0183, USA Tel: +1 352 392 0140/6681; fax: +1 352 392 8217; e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.