Food Addiction

  • Serge H. Ahmed
  • Nicole M. Avena
  • Kent C. Berridge
  • Ashley N. Gearhardt
  • Karine Guillem


Throughout history, people were concerned with eating sufficiently to survive and reproduce. It is only recently with the advent of the modern food industry that the mass consumption of easily accessible high-calorie, tasty foods (e.g., high in sugars and/or fats) has produced an evolutionarily novel state in which many people eat too much and become too fat. In the modern food environment, people report consuming hyperpalatable foods no longer only to get calories but also to experience rewarding sensations, to cope with stress or fatigue, to enhance cognition, and/or to ameliorate mood. Highly processed foods containing high concentrations of refined macronutrients are no longer viewed solely from the angle of energy balance. Some refined ingredients, such as sugars, are progressively more viewed, by laypeople and scientists alike, as addictive substances and their chronic overconsumption as food addiction. Once a controversial concept, food addiction is now considered as serious as other forms of addiction, including cocaine or heroin addiction. The present chapter describes established research, involving both animal models and clinical research, on the neurobiology of sugar addiction. The focus on sugar addiction as a paradigmatic example is all the more important in view of the inexorable “sweetening of the world’s diet.” Much daily gratification that people derive from food consumption comes from the sweet taste of highly sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. In addition, there is growing evidence linking increased sugar availability and consumption, particularly in infants, to the current worldwide obesity epidemic. Despite the focus on sugar addiction, some of the main conclusions drawn can be generalized to other types of food addiction.


Binge Eating Disorder Taste Receptor Sweet Taste Taste Cell Palatable Food 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.





Binge Eating Disorders


Central Nucleus of the Amygdala


Corticotropin-Releasing Factor






functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging


Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified


messenger Ribonucleic Acid


Nucleus Accumbens


Orbitofrontal Cortex


Yale Food Addiction Scale

Further Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Serge H. Ahmed
    • 1
  • Nicole M. Avena
    • 2
  • Kent C. Berridge
    • 3
  • Ashley N. Gearhardt
    • 4
  • Karine Guillem
    • 5
  1. 1.Institut des Maladies Neurodégénératives, University Bordeaux-Segalen Centre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueBordeauxFrance
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Florida College of Medicine, McKnight Brain InstituteGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  5. 5.Université de Bordeaux, Institut des Maladies NeurodégénérativesBordeauxFrance

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