Circumspective | Published:

Food addiction: a valid concept?

Neuropsychopharmacologyvolume 43pages25062513 (2018) | Download Citation

  • A Correction to this article was published on 07 December 2018


Can food be addictive? What does it mean to be a food addict? Do common underlying neurobiological mechanisms contribute to drug and food addiction? These vexing questions have been the subject of considerable interest and debate in recent years, driven in large part by the major health concerns associated with dramatically increasing body weights and rates of obesity in the United States, Europe, and other regions with developed economies. No clear consensus has yet emerged on the validity of the concept of food addiction and whether some individuals who struggle to control their food intake can be considered food addicts. Some, including Fletcher, have argued that the concept of food addiction is unsupported, as many of the defining features of drug addiction are not seen in the context of feeding behaviors. Others, Kenny included, have argued that food and drug addiction share similar features that may reflect common underlying neural mechanisms. Here, Fletcher and Kenny argue the merits of these opposing positions on the concept of food addiction.

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PCF is supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Bernard Wolfe Health Neuroscience Fund. He is grateful to Hisham Ziauddeen and Margaret Westwater for their erudite discussion and suggestions around this topic. PJK was supported by the National Institutes of Health and is grateful to Drs. Alexandra DiFeliceantonio and Richard O’Connor for helpful discussions.

Author information


  1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 8AH, UK

    • Paul C. Fletcher
  2. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambrdge, CB21 5EF, UK

    • Paul C. Fletcher
  3. Department of Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, 10029, USA

    • Paul J. Kenny


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Competing interests

PJK is a co-founder and shareholder in Eolas Therapeutics Inc., has a patent license agreement with AstraZeneca, receives research support from Eli Lilly, and has received consulting fees from Takenda Pharmaceuticals, USA. PCF has received consulting fees from GlaxoSmithKline.

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Correspondence to Paul C. Fletcher.

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