Is food addiction a valid and useful concept?
Ziauddeen, H. and Fletcher, P. C.
In this paper, we considered the concept of food addiction from a clinical and neuroscientific perspective. Food addiction has an established and growing currency in the context of models of overeating and obesity, and its acceptance shapes debate and research. However, we argued that the evidence for its existence in humans was actually rather limited and, in addition, there were fundamental theoretical difficulties that required consideration. We therefore reviewed food addiction as a phenotypic description, one that was based on overlap between certain eating behaviours and substance dependence. To begin, we considered limitations in the general application of this concept to obesity. We shared the widely held view that such a broad perspective was not sustainable and considered a more focused view: that it underlies particular eating patterns, notably binge eating. However, even with this more specific focus[,] there were still problems. Validation of food addiction at the neurobiological level is absolutely critical, but there are inconsistencies in the evidence from humans suggesting that caution should be exercised in accepting food addiction as a valid concept. We argue the current evidence is preliminary and suggest directions for future work that may provide more useful tests of the concept.
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