Genetic Similarities between Compulsive Overeating and Addiction Phenotypes: A Case for Food Addiction? (2015)

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2015 Dec;17(12):96. doi: 10.1007/s11920-015-0634-5.

Carlier N1, Marshe VS1,2, Cmorejova J3,4, Davis C5, Müller DJ6,7.


There exists a continuous spectrum of overeating, where at the extremes there are casual overindulgences and at the other a ‘pathological’ drive to consume palatable foods. It has been proposed that pathological eating behaviors may be the result of addictive appetitive behavior and loss of ability to regulate the consumption of highly processed foods containing refined carbohydrates, fats, salt, and caffeine.

In this review, we highlight the genetic similarities underlying substance addiction phenotypes and overeating compulsions seen in individuals with binge eating disorder. We relate these similarities to findings from neuroimaging studies on reward processing and clinical diagnostic criteria based on addiction phenotypes.

The abundance of similarities between compulsive overeating and substance addictions puts forth a case for a ‘food addiction’ phenotype as a valid, diagnosable disorder.


Binge eating; Dopamine; Food addiction; Genetics; Reward system