The University of Newcastle

Nutrition and Dietetics

@DrTracyBurrows@UON_research, @HMRIAustralia and @UONPRCPAN


Dr Burrow’s research investigates whether humans can become addicted to certain foods, particularly those highly processed foods seen as major contributors to overweight and obesity.

Animal studies have shown that diets high in sugar, salt and fat are linked with physical and neurological changes that mirror symptoms and behaviours seen in cases of substance addiction.

Tracy’s background in obesity and dietary assessment provides her with a unique perspective as addiction research is predominantly pursued by psychologists and animal-based researchers.

Her studies have investigated brain responses when individuals view different food images and results show 20% of adults and 10% of children exhibit responses associated with addiction. Individuals with food addiction exhibit different brain connectivity and activation patterns when compared to non-addicted persons. These addictive responses were most evident with exposure to images of highly processed and junk food (chips, confectionary).

Tracy actively communicates her work to those who could most benefit from it. She has written for The Conversation, Australasian Science and the Coles Toddler and Baby magazine. She developed community programs such as the Newcastle Herald Kick Start campaign and has given presentations to primary students and teachers in the Hunter region.