Obesity and Addiction: Can a Complication of Bariatric Surgery Help Us Understand the Connection?
Obesity has become a worldwide epidemic, costing millions of lives and billions of dollars annually. It is a chronic disease that has proven to be extremely difficult to treat, likely because there are numerous factors that contribute to obesity. An increased understanding of etiological mechanisms is critical to the development of more effective obesity prevention and treatment strategies. A growing body of empirical evidence has demonstrated parallels between obesity and substance dependence, including shared brain reward pathways implicated in the excessive intake of both food and substances of abuse. In addition, obesity and substance abuse share psychological risk factors, such as impulsivity and other deficits in executive functioning.
Currently, research is emerging in a variety of domains relevant to the central topic of obesity and addictions. In particular, a number of different lines of research focusing on weight loss surgery and addictions hold the potential to shed light on the connection between obesity and addictions. However, these lines of investigation have proceeded disparately, and to date there have been no efforts to assemble all of the pieces of the puzzle in a synthesized, comprehensive manner. The participants in the proposed seminar represent a group of researchers and clinicians who have all been working separately on components of obesity and addiction research and would like to come together to unite our efforts, outline the important questions about this topic, explore how to synthesize the work we are all doing into an integrated line of investigation, and develop a program of collaborative research.