Food Addiction: Analysis With an Animal Model of Sugar Bingeing
“Food addiction” has been postulated as one cause for the rise in obesity and overweight in the US. However, while it has been considered a real condition among many individuals suffering from eating disorders and obesity, food addiction has only recently been seriously addressed by the scientific community. This chapter reviews the theory of food addiction and its possible evolutionary origins, and presents data from laboratory animal research and clinical studies that show addictive-like behaviors can result under certain feeding conditions, namely, in response to binge-eating sugar. Drawing on the drug abuse literature, behaviors such as bingeing, withdrawal, and craving during abstinence have been demonstrated in rats that are bingeing on sugar. Studies of the brain show neurochemical changes in sugar-bingeing rats that are similar to those observed in response to drugs of abuse. Imaging data reveal structural and functional brain changes in individuals who have pathological feeding behaviors (e.g., obesity, bulimia) that are also consistent with an addictive-like state. These findings have given the concept of food addiction a scientific basis, and this area of research may lead to new and innovative methods through which to treat individuals who have maladaptive relationships with food.
KeywordsEating Disorder Binge Eating Bulimia Nervosa Sweet Taste Palatable Food
Dopamine type 1 receptor
Dopamine type 2 receptor
Dopamine type 3 receptor
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Fourth Edition
Messenger ribonucleic acid
We would like to acknowledge the support of USPHS grants DK-79793 (fellowship to NMA) and AA-12882 (BGH). We thank Aimee Chen and John Tang for their assistance in preparing this chapter.
- Avena NM, Rada P, Bocarsly ME, Hoebel BG. Binge eating as a form of addiction: evidence from an animal model of sugar addiction. Binge eating: psychological factors, symptoms and treatment. In: Chambers N, editor. New York: Nova Science; 2009a. p. 95–123.Google Scholar
- Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Sugar and fat bingeing have notable differences in addictive-like behavior. J Nutr. 2009b;139(3):623–8.Google Scholar
- Davis CA, Levitan RD, Reid C, Carter JC, Kaplan AS, Patte KA, King N, Curtis C, Kennedy JL. Dopamine for “wanting” and opioids for “liking”: a comparison of obese adults with and without binge eating. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2009;17(6):1220–5.Google Scholar
- Grimm JW, Shaham Y, Hope BT. Effect of cocaine and sucrose withdrawal period on extinction behavior, cue-induced reinstatement, and protein levels of the dopamine transporter and tyrosine hydroxylase in limbic and cortical areas in rats. Behav Pharmacol. 2002;13(5–6):379–88.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Heubner H. Endorphins, eating disorders and other addictive behaviors. New York: W. W. Norton; 1993.Google Scholar
- Koob GF, Le Moal M. Neurobiology of addiction. San Diego: Academic; 2005.Google Scholar
- Marrazzi MA, Luby ED. The neurobiology of anorexia nervosa: an auto-addiction? The brain as an endocrine organ. In: Cohen M, Foa P, editors. New York: Springer; 1990.p. 46–95.Google Scholar