Current Considerations Regarding Food Addiction


“Food addiction” is an emerging area, and behavioral and biological overlaps have been observed between eating and addictive disorders. Potential misconceptions about applying an addiction framework to problematic eating behavior may inhibit scientific progress. Critiques of “food addiction” that focus on descriptive differences between overeating and illicit drugs are similar to early criticisms of the addictiveness of tobacco. Although food is necessary for survival, the highly processed foods associated with addictive-like eating may provide little health benefit. Individual differences are important in determining who develops an addiction. If certain foods are addictive, the identification of possible risk factors for “food addiction” is an important next step. Not all treatments for addiction require abstinence. Addiction interventions that focus on moderation or controlled use may lead to novel approaches to treating eating-related problems. Finally, addiction-related policies that focus on environmental (instead of educational) targets may have a larger public health impact in reducing overeating.

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Conflict of Interest

Erica M. Schulte and Michelle A. Joyner declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Marc N. Potenza has received financial support or compensation for the following: Dr. Potenza has consulted for and advised Boehringer Ingelheim, Lundbeck, Ironwood, Shire and INSYS; has consulted for and had financial interests in Somaxon; has received research support from the National Institutes of Health, Veteran’s Administration, Mohegan Sun Casino, the National Center for Responsible Gaming and its affiliated Institute for Research on Gambling Disorders, and Forest Laboratories, Ortho-McNeil, Oy-Control/Biotie, Glaxo-SmithKline, Pfizer and Psyadon pharmaceuticals; has participated in surveys, mailings, or telephone consultations related to drug addiction, impulse control disorders, or other health topics; has consulted for law offices and the federal public defender’s office in issues related to impulse control disorders; provides clinical care in the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Problem Gambling Services Program; has performed grant reviews for the National Institutes of Health and other agencies; has guest-edited journal sections; has given academic lectures in grand rounds, CME events, and other clinical or scientific venues; and has generated books or book chapters for publishers of mental health texts.

Carlos M. Grilo reports that he has received research support from the National Institutes of Health and Medical Research Foundations, has received honoraria for academic grand rounds and lectures at universities and professional conferences, has received honoraria for CME events and lectures, has received honoraria for academic journal editorial roles, has received consultant and advisory fees from Shire, and has received book royalties for academic books.

Ashley N. Gearhardt reports that she has received research support from the National Institutes of Health, has received honoraria for academic grand rounds and lectures at universities and professional conferences, has received honoraria for CME events and lectures, and has received honoraria for academic journal editorial roles.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Ashley N. Gearhardt.

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Erica M. Schulte and Michelle A. Joyner shared first authorship

A special thank you to Dr. Timothy D. Brewerton for taking the time to review this manuscript.

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Eating Disorders

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Schulte, E.M., Joyner, M.A., Potenza, M.N. et al. Current Considerations Regarding Food Addiction. Curr Psychiatry Rep 17, 19 (2015).

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  • Food addiction
  • Obesity
  • Addiction
  • Substance dependence