Obesity rates in the US and abroad have skyrocketed in recent decades. This obesity epidemic is fueled by changes that have occurred in the composition of the modern Western diet, as well as in the way this diet is consumed. While overeating — or consuming food beyond one’s energetic needs — is perhaps the most important proximal cause of obesity, much remains unknown about the distal factors responsible for overeating. Importantly, the loss of behavioral control associated with overeating has much in common with that observed in drug addiction, suggesting that these disorders may be mediated by common neurobehavioral mechanisms. We are currently investigating if consuming highly palatable and highly processed foods can have long-lasting effects on the way such foods are pursued and consumed, and whether these behavioral effects are related to adaptations in the neural circuitry underlying motivated behavior.
This project is funded by NIDDK Grant R01DK098709