While food addiction has no formally-recognized definition, it is typically operationalized according to the diagnostic principles established by the Yale Food Addiction Scale
—an inventory based on the symptom criteria for substance dependence in the DSM-IV. Currently, there is little biologically-based research investigating the risk factors for food addiction. What does exist has focused almost exclusively on dopaminergic reward pathways in the brain. While brain opioid signaling
has also been strongly implicated in the control of food intake, there is no research examining this neural circuitry in the association with food addiction. The purpose of the study was therefore to test a model predicting that a stronger activation potential of opioid circuitry-as indicated by the functional A118G marker of the mu
-opioid receptor gene-would serve as an indirect risk factor for food addiction via a heightened hedonic responsiveness to palatable food. Results confirmed these relationships. In addition, our findings that the food-addiction group had significantly higher levels of hedonic responsiveness to food suggests that this bio-behavioral trait may foster a proneness to overeating, to episodes of binge eating, and ultimately to a compulsive and addictive pattern of food intake.
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