The concept of “food addiction” is gaining acceptance among the scientific community, and much is known about the influence of various components of food (e.g. high-fat, sugar, carbohydrate, salt) on behavior and physiology. Most of the studies to date have studied these consequences following relatively long-term diet manipulations and/or relatively free access to the food of interest. It is suggested that these types of studies are primarily tapping into the energy regulation and homeostatic processes that govern food intake and consumption. More recently, the overlap between the neurobiology of “reward-related” or hedonic effects of food ingestion and other reinforcers such as drugs of abuse has been highlighted, contributing to the notion that “food addiction” exists and that various components of food may be the substance of abuse. Based on preclinical animal models of drug addiction, a new direction for this field is using self-administration procedures and identifying an addiction-like behavioral phenotype in animals following various environmental, genetic, pharmacological, and neurobiological manipulations. Here we provide examples from this research area, with a focus on fat and sugar self-administration, and how the sophisticated animal models of drug addiction can be used to study the determinants and consequences of food addiction.
Keywords: Self-administration, animal models, food addiction, obesity, fat, sugar, homeostatic, neurobiology, hypothalamic, dysregulation, mesocorticolimbic, ghrelin, galanin, cocaine, antagonism, insensitivity, anorectic, d-amphetamine, relapse, appetite
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