The Relationship Between Drugs of Abuse and Palatable Foods: Pre-clinical Evidence Towards a Better Understanding of Addiction-Like Behaviors

  • Renata B. M. Duarte
  • Aline Caron Borges
  • Marilia Barros


Food is essential for the survival of all animals, yet ingestive behavior varies significantly between species. In humans, obesity and related pathologies are currently considered a public health issue, having attained global epidemic proportions. Therefore, a better understanding of its etiology may help improve treatment strategies, as well as promote large-scale social changes. In this sense, this chapter discusses mainly “food addiction” within the current framework of eating-related disorders. We first review the two main neurophysiological mechanisms that regulate ingestive behaviors: (i) the homeostatic drive, which, via activation of specific hormones, increases or inhibits food intake according to endogenous energy deposits; and (ii) the hedonic drive, which is related to the subjective pleasurable experiences associated with food and acts independent of the body’s energy stores. We then focus on the main concepts and characteristics of “food addiction,” with the development of food-related binge-like and craving behaviors that may be induced when the hedonic drive “overrides” the homeostatic system. Several behavioral criteria currently used to define drug addiction can be readily transposed to those related to eating disorders. At the neurobiological level, similar underlying neural pathways are activated and/or altered by compulsive-like drug and food intake. The behavioral and neurobiological overlap is discussed, with an emphasis on pre-clinical evidence, particularly between binge-eating disorders and drug addiction. Different animal models, their advantages and translational limitations to human pathologies are then discussed.


Food addiction Binge eating Reward Animal models 



The writing of this chapter was supported by CNPq (478930/2012-7) and FAP-DF (193.001.026/2015). R.B.M.D. received a doctoral fellowship from CNPq and M.B. a research fellowship from CNPq (304041/2015-7).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renata B. M. Duarte
    • 1
    • 2
  • Aline Caron Borges
    • 1
  • Marilia Barros
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Health SciencesUniversity of BrasiliaBrasiliaBrazil
  2. 2.Primate Center, Institute of BiologyUniversity of BrasiliaBrasiliaBrazil

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