October 19, 2021

Researchers discover connection between brain’s opioid system and eating behavior – NovLink

Journal Reference:

  1. Tatu Kantonen, Tomi Karjalainen, Laura Pekkarinen, Janne Isojärvi, Kari Kalliokoski, Valtteri Kaasinen, Jussi Hirvonen, Pirjo Nuutila, Lauri Nummenmaa. Cerebral μ-opioid and CB1 receptor systems have distinct roles in human feeding behavior. Translational Psychiatry, 2021; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41398-021-01559-5

Animal studies have established that the brain’s opioid and endocannabinoid systems are important in regulating eating behavior and mediate the food reward experience. For instance, alterations in these systems’ signaling have been associated with obesity. In general, both internal signals of the body, such as fluctuation in blood sugar levels, and external stimuli, such as food advertisements, can spark an appetite in humans.

In their new study, researchers at the University of Turku, Finland, investigated the connection between the brain’s opioid and endocannabinoid signaling and different types of eating behavior. They discovered that the function of the opioid system is connected to eating triggered by external stimuli.

“The less binding sites there were for the opioids, the greater was the tendency to eat in response to external stimuli, such as seeing appetizing food. Moreover, the number of binding sites for endocannabinoids was connected to several different types of eating behavior, describes first author,” Doctoral Candidate Tatu Kantonen from the University of Turku.

According to Kantonen, the results indicate that especially the opioid system could be a potential target for anti-obesity drugs in humans.

The research data was obtained from the AIVO database hosted by the Turku PET Centre.

Researchers discover connection between brain’s opioid system and eating behavior