Hyperpalatability and the Generation of Obesity: Roles of Environment, Stress Exposure and Individual Difference


Purpose of Review

This review investigates how exposure to palatable food and its associated cues alters appetite regulation and feeding behaviour to drive overeating and weight gain.

Recent Findings

Both supraphysiological and physiological feeding systems are affected by exposure to palatable foods and its associated cues. Preclinical research, largely using rodents, has demonstrated that palatable food modulates feeding-related neural systems and food-seeking behaviour by recruiting the mesolimbic reward pathway. This is supported by studies in adolescents which have shown that mesolimbic activity in response to palatable food cues and consumption predicts future weight gain. Additionally, stress exposure, environmental factors and individual susceptibility have been shown to modulate the effects of highly palatable foods on behaviour.


Further preclinical research using free-choice diets modelling the modern obesogenic environment is needed to identify how palatable foods drive overeating. Moreover, future clinical research would benefit from more appropriate quantification of palatability, making use of rating systems and surveys.

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Fig. 1


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Correspondence to Margaret J. Morris.

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Sarah-Jane Leigh, Frances Lee and Margaret J. Morris declare they have no conflict of interest.

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Where studies performed by the authors are included, appropriate institutional animal ethics approval was obtained and details are provided in the cited source.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Etiology of Obesity

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Leigh, SJ., Lee, F. & Morris, M.J. Hyperpalatability and the Generation of Obesity: Roles of Environment, Stress Exposure and Individual Difference. Curr Obes Rep 7, 6–18 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-018-0292-0

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  • Food addiction
  • Hyperpalatability
  • Hyperphagia
  • Obesity
  • Reward
  • Stress