Preclinical evidence for the addiction potential of highly palatable foods: Current developments related to maternal influence (2016)

Appetite. 2016 Dec 15. pii: S0195-6663(16)30935-7. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.12.019.

Wiss DA1, Criscitelli K2, Gold M3, Avena N4.


It is well established that obesity has reached pandemic proportions. Over the last four decades the prevalence of obesity and morbid obesity have risen substantially in both men and women worldwide. Although there are many causative factors leading to excessive weight gain including genetics and sedentary lifestyle, the transformation of the food environment has undoubtedly contributed to the dangerously high rates of obesity. The current food landscape is inundated with food engineered to contain artificially high levels of sugar and fat. Overconsumption of these types of food overrides the homeostatic mechanisms, which under normal circumstances regulate appetite and body mass, leading to hedonic eating. Evidence from the animal literature has illustrated nutrition-influenced perturbations that occur within the mesolimbic dopamine pathway, as well as maladaptive behavioral responses that result from chronic ingestion of highly palatable foods. These neurobehavioral adaptations are similar to what is observed in drugs of abuse. Recent evidence also supports that maternal exposure to these foods is capable of provoking neurobehavioral alterations in offspring. Therefore the purpose of this review is to summarize the current developments on the addictive potential of highly palatable foods, as well as illuminate the impact of maternal hyperphagia and obesity on the reward-related neurocircuitry and addiction-like behaviors in the offspring.

KEYWORDS: Addiction; Highly palatable; Maternal; Obesity; Reward; Sugar

PMID: 27989563

DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.12.019