The neurobiological and behavioral overlaps of nicotine and food addiction (2016)

Prev Med. 2016 Aug 7. pii: S0091-7435(16)30215-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.08.009.

Criscitelli K1, Avena NM2.


Both cigarette smoking and obesity are significant public health concerns and are associated with increased risk of early mortality. It is well established that the mesolimbic dopamine pathway is an important component of the reward system within the brain and is implicated in the development of addiction. Indeed, nicotine and highly palatable foods are capable of altering dopamine release within this system, engendering addictive like responses in susceptible individuals. Although additional research is warranted, findings from animal and human literature have elucidated many of neuroadaptions that occur from exposure to nicotine and highly palatable foods, leading to a greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms contributing to these aberrant behaviors. In this review we present the findings taken from preclinical and clinical literature of the known effects of exposure to nicotine and highly palatable foods on the reward related circuitry within the brain. Further, we compare the neurobiological and behavioral overlaps between nicotine, highly palatable foods and obesity. Lastly, we examine the stigma associated with smoking, obesity and food addiction, and the consequences stigma has on the overall health and wellbeing of an individual.

KEYWORDS: Dopamine; Food addiction; Highly palatable food; Nicotine; Obesity

PMID: 27509870

DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.08.009