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As stated previously, obesity and its related chronic diseases are emerging at an alarming rate. For instance, Zheng et al. state: “every third child born in the USA (is) predicted to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.” Diabetes (and therefore, obesity) is linked to heart disease, stroke, blindness, immune problems, kidney dysfunction, and other clinical symptoms (American Diabetics Association). Clearly, the need for effective treatment of obesity is great. However, this project has highlighted the intricacies of feeding behavior and the complexity of chronic overeating. Merely reducing intake and increasing exercise does not seem nearly as effective as one might predict based on basic homeostatic mechanisms. Thus, it is plausible that reward circuitry is involved and can even override homeostatic mechanisms, resulting in a pathological condition. Defining over-eating or binge eating as an actual addiction is still problematic. Perhaps unfortunately, energy is needed for survival. Unlike a drug addict who has the option of quitting all together, the food addict still needs to eat. In this sense, eating is more difficult to regulate. In addition, genetics, epigenetics, and the environment all factor into feeding behavior. More research is needed to integrate models of addiction and models of energy homeostasis in order to develop pharmacological treatments. In the meantime, a healthy diet and exercise still represent effective methods for maintenance of a normal weight. Very few individuals actually have documented leptin mutations or TaqI A allele polymorphisms. These individuals may be genetically more prone to the addictive-like effects of fatty foods, but that is certainly not an excuse for the overwhelming obesity in society today.

Return to Neural Reward, Energy Homeostasis, and Addiction-like Compulsive Eating.

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