Table of Contents
ISRN Obesity
Volume 2013, Article ID 435027, 20 pages
Review Article

From Passive Overeating to “Food Addiction”: A Spectrum of Compulsion and Severity

Kinesiology & Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, York University, 343 Bethune College, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON, Canada M3J 1P3

Received 20 March 2013; Accepted 16 April 2013

Academic Editors: H. Gordish-Dressman, E. K. Naderali, S. J. Pintauro, S. Straube, S. Weitzman, and J. Zempleni

Copyright © 2013 Caroline Davis. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A psychobiological dimension of eating behaviour is proposed, which is anchored at the low end by energy intake that is relatively well matched to energy output and is reflected by a stable body mass index (BMI) in the healthy range. Further along the continuum are increasing degrees of overeating (and BMI) characterized by more severe and more compulsive ingestive behaviours. In light of the many similarities between chronic binge eating and drug abuse, several authorities have adopted the perspective that an apparent dependence on highly palatable food—accompanied by emotional and social distress—can be best conceptualized as an addiction disorder. Therefore, this review also considers the overlapping symptoms and characteristics of binge eating disorder (BED) and models of food addiction, both in preclinical animal studies and in human research. It also presents this work in the context of the modern and “toxic” food environment and therein the ubiquitous triggers for over-consumption. We complete the review by providing evidence that what we have come to call “food addiction” may simply be a more acute and pathologically dense form of BED.