Prog Neurobiol. 2014 Mar;114:84-101. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2013.12.001.
Obesity is a global epidemic associated with a series of secondary complications and comorbid diseases such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, sleep-breathing disorders, and certain forms of cancer. On the surface, it seems that obesity is simply the phenotypic manifestation of deliberately flawed food intake behavior with the consequence of dysbalanced energy uptake and expenditure and can easily be reversed by caloric restriction and exercise. Notwithstanding this assumption, the disappointing outcomes of long-term clinical studies based on this assumption show that the problem is much more complex.
Obviously, recent studies render that specific neurocircuits involved in appetite regulation are etiologically integrated in the pathomechanism, suggesting obesity should be regarded as a neurobiological disease rather than the consequence of detrimental food intake habits.
Moreover, apart from the physical manifestation of overeating, a growing body of evidence suggests a close relationship with psychological components comprising mood disturbances, altered reward perception and motivation, or addictive behavior.
Given that current dietary and pharmacological strategies to overcome the burgeoning threat of the obesity problem are of limited efficacy, bear the risk of adverse side-effects, and in most cases are not curative, new concepts integratively focusing on the fundamental neurobiological and psychological mechanisms underlying overeating are urgently required. This new approach to develop preventive and therapeutic strategies would justify assigning obesity to the spectrum of neuropsychological diseases.
Our objective is to give an overview on the current literature that argues for this view and, on the basis of this knowledge, to deduce an integrative model for the development of obesity originating from disturbed neuropsychological functioning.
Addiction; Body weight regulation; Depression; Psychosocial stress; Reward center