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Nicole Avena, Ph.D.

Nicole Avena, Ph.D.Specialties: Diet, nutrition, addiction, weight loss, obesity, healthful eating for kids and during pregnancy
Home base: New York City
Web site: drnicoleavena.com

Dr. Nicole Avena is a research neuroscientist and expert in the fields of nutrition, diet and addiction. She is a pioneer in the field of food addiction and it was her seminal research work that jump started this exciting new field of exploration in medicine and nutrition. She is also an expert in diet during pregnancy and childhood nutrition.

Dr. Avena received a Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience from Princeton University in 2006. She then completed her postdoctoral fellowship in 2010 at the prestigious Rockefeller University in New York City, an all-research institution that lays claim to having had 24 Nobel Prize winners on its staff over the years.

Dr. Avena currently is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and a Visiting Professor in Psychology at Princeton University. She has published over 90 scholarly journal articles on topics related to diet, nutrition and overeating, and she frequently presents her research findings at scientific conferences and university symposia. Her research achievements have been honored by awards from several groups including the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She has received research funding from prestigious sources including the National Institutes of Health and the National Eating Disorders Association. 

Dr. Avena’s book Why Diets Fail (Ten Speed Press, 2014) reviews the research on food addiction and provides a way in which people can remove added sugars and carbohydrates from their diet. She has another best-selling book, What to Eat When You’re Pregnant What to Eat When You’re Pregnant book jacket (Ten Speed Press, 2015), that provides moms-to-be with nutritional advice on what to eat to ensure they and their baby are healthy. Her forthcoming book, What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler (2018), covers nutrition for babies who are just beginning to eat, offering science-based advice and practical tips on how to get your baby to eat healthy foods, like vegetables.

Dr. Avena is a sought-after speaker, and she has been lauded by her colleagues and the public for her ability to explain complex scientific principles and research findings to a lay audience. Dr. Avena regularly makes public- speaking appearances throughout the United States, Europe and Asia to discuss her research and discoveries. She is regularly asked to speak to special-interest groups, industry groups and schools. She regularly appears on The Dr. Oz Show, and she has also appeared on The Doctors, Good Day NY, The Couch, Home and Family, The Better Show, as well as many local news programs including FOX5 San Diego, KTLA, WGN and local New York stations. She has also been a guest on several radio programs and podcasts, and has been filmed for several documentaries on the obesity epidemic. Her work has been featured in Time Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, The New York Times, Shape, Men’s Health, Details and many other periodicals. Dr. Avena is a member of the Random House Speakers Bureau. Her talk How Sugar Affects Your Brain was ranked the number 2 most-watched video on TED-ED, with over 5 million views. Her video has been praised by educators and public health groups. She consults for many policy groups, pharmaceutical companies and baby-food manufacturers.

Dr. Avena has a blog on Psychology Today, “Food Junkie,” which explains relevant research findings in an accessible way. She also blogs for The Huffington Post. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Suggested Topics

  • Food Addiction and Obesity
    A lecture that describes how highly-caloric and palatable foods hijack the reward system in the brain, which can result in excessive overeating and obesity that is resistant to traditional dieting. This lecture also suggests ways to avoid and recover from food addiction.

  • The Psychology of Healthy Eating
    A lecture on the psychological principles (emotional, social and cognitive) that underlie eating behavior, and how in our modern society psychology can easily (and often unknowingly) lead us to eat in ways that are unhealthy. An understanding of this process will allow individuals to avoid unhealthy eating patterns, and more sensible food choices.

  • Raising Children to Eat Right
    A valuable lecture for parents, teachers and kids that helps understand the nature of unhealthy eating among children. Despite coaxing and education, many kids still prefer to eat unhealthy food. This lecture explains the dangers of obesity in youth into adulthood, and explores some of the common psychological and nutritional mistakes that parents make raising their children that can inadvertently promote unhealthy eating, and offer solutions on how to fix them. This lecture could also be modified and targeted toward children/teens.

Video Samples