Food and Addiction: The Dopamine Made Me Do It

Friday, March 22, 2013: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Casablanca North-Keynote (Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort)
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Background: The relationship between food and addiction has become the center focus of a burgeoning new field of research championed by leaders at the NIH's National Institute of Drug Abuse. Groundbreaking new science will be presented detailing why food addiction is seen as real and the science based solution.


The reward center, the role of dopamine and the importance of the dopamine receptor in the perception of pleasure and reward

The signiifance of the prefrontal cortex in addiction

Historical timeline for neuroscience research studying the relationship between food and addiction: animal and human data

Changes in the dopamine receptor population and prefrontal cortex activation during addiction

The hyperpalatables (sugary/fatty/salty food combinations), primarily as refined and processed products, and food addiction

Cravings and their relationship to calorie-dense foods

Sugar is as addictive as cocaine

Cross addictions: nicotine, alcohol, drugs

Clinical Assessment of Food and Addiction

Yale Food Addiction Scale as the first scientifically validated assessment for food addiction

New Treatments for Overweight based on Obesity Models

The role of epigenetics in the detox and recovery template

The holistic and integrative approach: mental, nutritional and physical pillars

Two human behaviors explain why we’re still here: engaging in sex and consuming food. Both are inextricably linked by dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure. It’s what motivates us to read all three volumes of Fifty Shades of Grey or to inhale a plate of mom’s homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. To date, procreative activities have maintained their primal prerogative without too much deviation from nature’s blueprint. Food production and consumption, on the other hand, have fallen prey to psychosocial, cultural and environmental factors that increase our collective girth and make us more vulnerable to disease. Researchers have recently uncovered a critical clue to help explain this problem—a link between food and addiction. PET scans utlizing radionucleotides have identified organic changes in the brain's reward center during active addiction, whether from food or drug addiction. Specifically, chronic exposure to the hyperpalatables--- sugary/fatty/salty food combinations--- appear to reduce the dopamine receptor population. This leads to a dramatic reduction in perceived pleasure and satisfaction which results in a cycle of seeking more of the food and consequently overeating. Functional MRI scans during active addiction have documented damage to the prefrontal cortex impairing the ability to rein in impulsivity. New treatments are based upon addiction models. Optimally they include a holistic template, integrating mental/behavioral, nutritional, and physical activity components to achieve successful detox and a sustainable lifelong recovery.

Primary Presenter:
Pamela M. Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP

Pam Peeke is a Pew Foundation Scholar in nutrition and metabolism, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland, and Fellow of the American College of Physicians. Dr. Peeke is the recipient of the Intramural Research and Training Award as well as the National Research Award at the National Institutes of Health where she conducted her original research on the relationship between visceral adipose tissue and chronic elevations of glucocorticoids. She is the senior editor of the women's health section of the second edition of Lifestyle Medicine textbook, and WebMD's lifestyle expert.