An animal model of compulsive food-taking behaviour (2009)

Addict Biol. 2009 Sep;14(4):373-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2009.00175.x.

Heyne A1, Kiesselbach C, Sahún I, McDonald J, Gaiffi M, Dierssen M, Wolffgramm J.


The increase in the incidence of obesity and eating disorders has promoted research aimed at understanding the aetiology of abnormal eating behaviours. Apart from metabolic factors, obesity is caused by overeating. Clinical reports have led to the suggestion that some individuals may develop addictive-like behaviours when consuming palatable foods, and compulsive eating plays a similar dominant role in obesity as compulsive drug taking does in drug addiction. The progress made in the development of treatment strategies for obesity is limited, in part, because the physiological and neurological causes and consequences of compulsive eating behaviour are not clearly understood and cannot readily be studied in human subjects. We have developed experimental approaches that reflect the functioning of the components of eating control, including compulsive food taking in rats. Rats that are given free choice between standard chow and a palatable, chocolate-containing ‘Cafeteria Diet’ (CD) develop distinct signs of compulsive food taking that appear at an early stage. These include the inability to adapt intake behaviour in periods of limited or bitter-tasting CD access, continued food intake during resting phases and changes in fine structure of feeding (duration, distribution and recurrence of feeding bouts). The model will help examine the neurobiological underpinnings of compulsive food seeking and food taking and provides a possibility to study the effects of novel anti-obesity compounds on compulsive eating and other components of food-taking behaviour in detail. For future use of genetic models, the possibility of a transfer to a mouse was discussed.