Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Food industry is under pressure to drop junk food advertisements

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 27 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:215

Rapid Response:

A diet of food advertising restrictions not enough to shed the weight of obesity

The BMJ’s news item on potential controls on food advertising
highlights a welcome approach [1]. But an even more major restructuring of
the obesogenic environment through regulation and pricing policies may be
necessary due to the underlying neurobiology of the human brain.

Evolution has designed our brains to reward certain behaviours and
neuroscience is currently exploring such reward systems. A recent model
suggests, in regards to cocaine addiction, that cocaine corrupts optimal
decision-making by “hijacking the brain circuitry responsible for learning
about rewards” [2,3]. It is quite plausible that a version of this
dopamine-mediated model may also be relevant to overeating and obesity,
given the evidence that brain dopamine pathways influence energy intake in
humans [4,5]. Neurofunctional imaging also suggests similarities between
obesity and drug addiction [6].

Although far more research into these issues is needed, it suggests
that reforms of the obesogenic environment may have to be far reaching
indeed to counter how evolution has designed our brains.


1) Watson R. Food industry is under pressure to drop junk food
advertisements. BMJ 2005;330:215.

2) Redish AD. Addiction as a computational process gone awry. Science

3) Ahmed SH. Addiction as compulsive reward prediction. Science

4) Epstein LH, Wright SM, Paluch RA, et al. Relation between food
reinforcement and dopamine genotypes and its effect on food intake in
smokers. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:82-8.

5) Davis C, Strachan S, Berkson M. Sensitivity to reward:
implications for overeating and overweight. Appetite 2004;42:131-8.

6) Wang GJ, Volkow ND, Thanos PK, Fowler JS. Similarity between
obesity and drug addiction as assessed by neurofunctional imaging: a
concept review. J Addict Dis 2004;23:39-53.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

29 January 2005
Nick Wilson
Senior Lecturer (Public Health)
Wellington School of Medicine, Otago University, Wellington