Background: This presentation will discuss the growing clinical and laboratory animal evidence regarding the concept of food addiction. Additional topics to be discussed include the psychometric tools designed to assess the presence of addiction-like behaviors regarding food as well as potential avenues for treatment.
1 - This presentation would include a brief background of the preclinical research findings from my and other groups' laboratories which have offered empirical support for the concept of food addiction.
2 - I plan to then discuss the findings from the burgeoning research that has begun to explore the food addiction construct in several different clinical populations, including individuals with obesity, those with binge eating disorder, bariatric surgery candidates, etc.
3 - The implications of these findings will be discussed. In particular, I plan to discuss the relevance of these recent developments to the field of eating disorders.
4 - I would then like to describe the psychometric tools that have been used to facilitate this research by assessing food addiction symptoms.
5 - As the last point, I plan to discuss the pharmacological treatment agents that are currently being considered or studied for use within this context.
The current rates of obesity and preclinical findings demonstrating numerous overlaps between binge eating and drug addiction have led to a recent interest in the concept of food addiction. As a result, in the last several years, a number of studies have sought to evaluate the presence of addiction-like behaviors regarding food in humans, particularly with respect to highly palatable foods, such as those high in fat and sugar. Subsequent findings have provided evidence of food addiction among treatment-seeking and non-clinical samples, as well as among individuals belonging to various weight, gender, and ethnic categories. More recently, studies have expanded to assess, and demonstrate, addiction-like relationships to food among children. Research has also indicated that food addiction can have a wide range of possible implications; with some, but not all, studies providing evidence that symptoms of food addiction may hinder weight loss efforts. Further, these recent reports have revealed associations between food addiction and binge eating, negative affect, and lower self-esteem. Collectively, these findings suggest that food addiction can be observed among a number of populations and can be associated with a number of additional challenges, indicating a need for the development of effective treatment strategies for those who struggle with food addiction. This presentation aims to 1) discuss the recent clinical research findings regarding food addiction and their relevance to eating disorders, 2) describe and discuss the psychometric tools used to study food addiction, and 3) discuss possible directions for treatment development, specifically pharmacological agents that may target reward-driven overeating.
Dr. Nicole Avena received a Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience from Princeton University under the mentorship of Dr. Bart Hoebel. She then conducted postdoctoral research at The Rockefeller University, studying molecular biology. She currently holds a position as an Assistant Professor at the New York Obesity Research Center and Columbia University's Institute of Human Nutrition. Her work has largely focused on studying the concept of food addiction using animal models. Her other research interests include understanding the neural basis of eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.