Obes Facts. 2012 Apr 19;5(2):180-195. [Epub ahead of print]
Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The dramatically increasing prevalence of obesity, associated with potentially life-threatening health problems, including cardiovascular diseases and type II diabetes, poses an enormous public health problem. It has been proposed that the obesity epidemic can be explained by the concept of ‘food addiction’. In this review we focus on possible similarities between binge eating disorder (BED), which is highly prevalent in the obese population, and drug addiction. Indeed, both behavioral and neural similarities between addiction and BED have been demonstrated. Behavioral similarities are reflected in the overlap in DSM-IV criteria for drug addiction with the (suggested) criteria for BED and by food addiction-like behavior in animals after prolonged intermittent access to palatable food. Neural similarities include the overlap in brain regions involved in food and drug craving. Decreased dopamine D2 receptor availability in the striatum has been found in animal models of binge eating, after cocaine self-administration in animals as well as in drug addiction and obesity in humans.
To further explore the neurobiological basis of food addiction, it is essential to have an animal model to test the addictive potential of palatable food. A recently developed animal model for drug addiction involves three behavioral characteristics that are based on the DSM-IV criteria:
i) extremely high motivation to obtain the drug,
ii) difficulty in limiting drug seeking even in periods of explicit non-availability,
iii) continuation of drug-seeking despite negative consequences.
Indeed, it has been shown that a subgroup of rats, after prolonged cocaine self-administration, scores positive on these three criteria. If food possesses addictive properties, then food-addicted rats should also meet these criteria while searching for and consuming food. In this review we discuss evidence from literature regarding food addiction-like behavior. We also suggest future experiments that could further contribute to our understanding of behavioral and neural commonalities and differences between obesity and drug addiction.
Copyright © 2012 S. Karger GmbH, Freiburg.