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Keywords:

  • eating disorders;
  • obesity;
  • addiction;
  • dopamine;
  • cognitive behaviour therapy

Abstract

An addiction model of both eating disorders and obesity has received increasing attention in the popular and scientific literature. The addiction is viewed as a brain disease that must be directly targeted if treatment is to succeed. Evidence from laboratory feeding studies, epidemiology, genetic and familial research, psychopathological mechanisms, and treatment outcome research on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is inconsistent with the clinical validity or utility of the addiction model of eating disorders. Neurobiological research has shown commonalities in brain reward processes between obesity and substance abuse disorders. Yet emphasis on apparent similarities overlooks important differences between obesity and drug addiction. Interest in obesity as a brain disease should not detract from a public health focus on the ‘toxic food environment’ that is arguably responsible for the obesity epidemic and related nutrition-based chronic disease. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.