Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 160-165

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Addictive Genes and the Relationship to Obesity and Inflammation

  • David HeberAffiliated withCenter for Human Nutrition, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Email author 
  • , Catherine L. CarpenterAffiliated withCenter for Human Nutrition, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA


There is increasing evidence that the same brain reward circuits involved in perpetuating drug abuse are involved in the hedonic urges and food cravings observed clinically in overweight and obese subjects. A polymorphism of the D2 dopamine receptor which renders it less sensitive to dopamine stimulation has been proposed to promote self-stimulatory behavior such as consuming alcohol, abusing drugs, or binging on foods. It is important to determine how this polymorphism may interact with other well-known candidate genes for obesity including polymorphisms of the leptin receptor gene and the opiomelanocortin gene. Leptin is a proinflammatory cytokine as well as a long-term signal maintaining body fat. Upper-body obesity stimulates systemic inflammation through the action of multiple cytokines including leptin throughout many organs including the brain. The association of numerous diseases including diabetes mellitus, heart disease, as well as depression with chronic low-grade inflammation due to abdominal obesity has raised the possibility that obesity-associated inflammation affecting the brain may promote addictive behaviors leading to a self-perpetuating cycle that may affect not only foods but addictions to drugs, alcohol, and gambling. This new area of interdisciplinary research holds the promise of developing new approaches to treating drug abuse and obesity.


Food addiction Genetics Dopamine Obesity Drug abuse Inflammation